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This is the oldest fragment of Earth ever found


Cathodoluminescence image of a 400-mm zircon found in Western Australia. Tests show it is the oldest known fragment ever found on Earth, about 4.4 billion years old.


John Valley/University of Wisconsin

Talk about vintage.

A tiny crystal from a sheep farm in Western Australia has been confirmed as the oldest fragment of Earth ever found.

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Clocking in at a whopping 4.4 billion years old, the blue zircon crystal is helping scientists unravel how Earth became able to support life.

It also suggests that Earth's crust developed much sooner than previously thought after the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago.

And that means Earth could have supported life much earlier, too.

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"We have no evidence that life existed then. We have no evidence that it didn't," lead study author John Valley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison told Reuters. "But there is no reason why life could not have existed on Earth 4.3 billion years ago."

Scientists dated the crystal by studying its uranium and lead atoms.

It was extracted in 2001 from a rock outcrop in Australia's Jack Hills region and measures just 200 by 400 microns — or about twice the diameter of a human hair.

The oldest records of life on Earth, stromatolite fossils, date back 3.4 billion years ago.