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Age of the Tectonic Plate

Earth’s Tectonic Plates have moved continuously since they originated. The new study has found that the enormous plates originated 3.6 billion years ago. Researchers thought that these plates formed anywhere from 3.5 billion to 3 billion years ago, and yet-to-be-published research even estimated that the plates are 3.7 billion years old.

Scientists discovered the starting date of these Tectonic Plates by analyzing ancient zircon crystals from the Jack Hills in Western Australia. Few zircons date to 4.3 billion years ago which shows that they existed when Earth was a mere 200 million years old baby, geologically speaking. Researchers used these zircons and the younger ones dating to 3 billion years ago, to decipher the planet’s ongoing chemical record.

Michael Ackerson, a research geologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the lead author of the study said that the researchers are reconstructing the way Earth changed from a molten ball of rock and formed a metal that is present today.

Tectonic Plates refer to the enormous slabs of solid rock gliding over Earth’s mantle which is the layer just below the crust. These continental slabs shift, fracture and collide, causing earthquakes to occur, mountains to grow and oceans to form. Earth is the only planet that has these plates. Quanta magazine reported that life on earth exists because of these plates.The rocks capture carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that helps to warm Earth, and plate tectonics ensures that these rocks eventually get dragged down and melted, and their CO2 is spewed out as gas through volcanoes. Earth may freeze without this process.

The plate Tectonic have been covered up and recycled over the geological aeons, determining its age can be challenging. Ackerson and his colleagues collected 15 grapefruit-size rocks from the Jack Hills and pulverized them into their smallest mineral components, forming sand for investigating. zircons are dense, so it was easy to separate them from the rest of the sand by using a method akin to gold panning.

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