Just when you thought Canada couldn’t be home to anything cooler than Justin Trudeau, a pair of scientists has upped the ante.
Indeed, University of Ottawa and Carnegie Institute for Science geologists Jonathan O’Neil and Richard Carlson have discovered a chunk of Earth’s original crust in Northwestern Quebec, Popular Mechanics reports.
The researchers say that they found the ancient basalt amid a bed of granite rock. Seemingly out of place, the researchers determined the rock’s age by testing for levels of isotopes — particularly samarium-146, which existed for a short period of time upon Earth’s formation several billion years ago — that would have appeared in Earth’s original crust.
After assessing the isotope levels, the pair found that the rock “fits the composition of the precursor rock we believe formed everything around it.” This has led O’Neil to conclude that “it’s an original piece of basaltic crust.”
That means that the rock O’Neil and Carlson discovered — and wrote about in a recently-published Science article — is approximately 4.3 billion years old.
It remains unclear just how the rock managed to survive for billions of years, but others outside the research project have corroborated the pair’s view that the find is authentic.
“It may indeed represent very early [4.3 billion year old] basaltic crust,” McGill University geologist Don Francis told Popular Mechanics.
In the video below, watch O’Neil explain his method and the significance of his findings:
Next, see what some newly discovered ancient rocks reveal about what the first life on Earth looked like.