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Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Curtin University in Australia, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have analyzed a zircon crystal from Australia with exciting results. The zircon, from metamorphic rocks in western Australia, is about 4.4 billion years old -- older than any other rock crystal known -- and holds isotopic evidence suggesting that at the time of its formation oceans could have been present on Earth. This information pushes back the earliest possible date that the right conditions for life existed. A report from the National Science Foundation on the study and its implications is found at this site. The document can be read as either HTML or ASCII text.
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