December 8, 2021

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Earth’s crust is way, way older than we thought

3 min read

Like a fine French bread, Earth would be nothing without its crust. And like a fine French wine, that crust has aged exceptionally well.

The rigid, rocky continental crust has been a feature of the planet for billions of years (though only a small percentage of today’s crust dates back that far). How many billions of years, exactly, is hard to say. To calculate the age of continents, researchers study the decay of ancient chemicals trapped in rocks — typically, in carbonate minerals recovered from the ocean. But those minerals are hard to find, and they are rarely in pristine enough condition to analyze.

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