Scientists release 800-million-year-old air

Image Credit: Nigel Blamey

Image Credit: Nigel Blamey

Scientists from Brock University in Ontario have just announced that they have been collecting air samples that have been trapped within tiny rock bubbles. The difference between this air and the air that is all around us, is that the air within the rock bubbles is around 800 million years old!

A long, long, looooooong time ago, rocks did the very few things that rocks actually do, they shifted, eroded against one another, and on occasion moved out of place and slid into the ground. There are many different scientific reasons behind rocks trapping and building bubbles of air. But what makes it truly neat is that these rocks ended up acting like time capsules, surviving throughout the ages and still containing parts of the past within them.

Scientist Nigel Blamey and his team first found the air bubbles in a sample of halite. By crushing the sample, the trapped air was released and run through a machine called a Quadruple Mass Spectrometer. The Quadruple Mass Spectrometer took measurements of the chemicals that made up the air of so many million years ago. The results were not what was expected.

The 800-million-year-old air had an oxygen content of around 10%. While this may seem low, it is actually much higher than scientists had theorized. Original theories supported the idea that the air of the past might have been completely free of oxygen. What a surprise it must have been to find out that there was much more oxygen in the atmosphere than previously thought.

More information can be found from the Journal of the Geological Society of America.

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