MONTREAL — Canadians won’t have to travel too far to touch the Earth’s oldest rocks.New research has discovered that rocks as old as 4.28 billion years are found along the eastern bank of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec in an area known as the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt.
While the age of the Earth itself is estimated at 4.6 billion years, most of the original surface has been crushed and recycled through tectonics, the movement of giant plates across the planet’s surface.
By measuring tiny variations in the chemical composition of the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone, the researchers were able to date various rock samples to between 3.8 billion and 4.28 billion years ago.
The discovery was made by a group of scientists from McGill University, the Universite du Quebec in Montreal and the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington D.C.
Professor Jonathan O’Neil of McGill’s department of earth and planetary sciences says the discovery opens the door “to further unlock the secrets of the Earth’s beginnings.”
He says geologists now have “a new playground” to explore how and when life began, what the atmosphere may have looked like and when the first continent formed.