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Scientists studying 'fool's gold' to analyse Earth's evolution 2.4 bn yrs ago.

Washington, July 23 (ANI): Scientists are studying ancient forms of the mineral pyrite to gain insight into a turning point in the Earth's evolution.

Detailed analysis of the mineral pyrite - dubbed fool's gold for its metallic lustre- has given fresh insight into the Earth before the Great Oxygenation Event, which took place 2.4 billion years ago. This was a time when oxygen released by early forms of bacteria gave rise to new forms of plant and animal life, transforming the Earth's oceans and atmosphere.

Studying the composition of pyrite enabled a geological snapshot of events at the time when it was formed. Studying the composition of different forms of iron in fool's gold gave scientists clues as to how conditions such as atmospheric oxygen influenced the processes forming the compound.

The latest research has showed that bacteria - which would have been an abundant life form at the time - did not influence the early composition of pyrite. This result, which contrasts with previous thinking, gives scientists a much clearer picture of the process.

More extensively, their discovery enabled better understanding of geological conditions at the time, which informs how the oceans and atmosphere evolved.

Dr Ian Butler, who led the research, said: "Technology allows us to trace scientific processes that we can't see from examining the mineral composition alone, to understand how compounds were formed. This new information about pyrite gives us a much sharper tool with which to analyse the early evolution of the Earth, telling us more about how our planet was formed."

The study has been published in Science. (ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Jul 23, 2011
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