Scientists proudly display oldest crystal on Earth

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File:Zircon crystal NASA Img.jpg

World's oldest tiny zircon at 4.4 billion years
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A tiny piece of rock 4.4 billion years old went on display in Wisconsin, USA Sunday for one day only. A jazz band played music, with rocks for percussion, which they said might be appropriate for displaying the bit of zircon crystal, barely two human hairs wide.

The tiny gem was found in Australia in 1984, and analyzed in 2001 by experts, and has led to the reappraisal of early Earth.

University of Wisconsin–Madison geophysicist Professor John Valley said his work proved the crystal could only have formed in a low-temperature environment.

"The whole thing is something that captures your imagination," he told reporters. "This is our first glimpse into the earliest history of the Earth. The miraculous thing about the crystal is that we've been able to make such wide-ranging inferences about the early Earth."

The exhibit was under police guard. The tiny sliver will return to Australia with a professor from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, who discovered it in 1984. It will go to a museum.