Billion years

A billion years (109 years) is a unit of time on the petasecond scale, more precisely equal to 3.16×1016 seconds.

It is sometimes abbreviated Gy, Ga ("giga-annum"), Byr and variants. The abbreviations Gya or bya are for "billion years ago", i.e. billion years before present.[1] The terms are used in geology, paleontology, geophysics, astronomy and physical cosmology.

The prefix giga- is preferred over billion- to avoid confusion in the long and short scales over the meaning of billion; the postfix annum may be further qualified for precision as a sidereal year or Julian year:

1 Gaj=3.15576×1016 s,
1 Gas=3.15581×1016 s (epoch J2000.0).
1 Gas=1×109 y

Byr was formerly used in English-language geology and astronomy as a unit of one billion years. Subsequently, the term gigaannum (Ga) has increased in usage, with Gy or Gyr still sometimes used in English-language works (at the risk of confusion with Gy as abbreviation for the gray, a unit of radiation exposure). Astronomers use Gyr or Gy as an abbreviation for gigayear.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ Yarus, Michael (2010). Life from an RNA World: The Ancestor Within. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-674-05075-4.
  2. ^ Selsis; Kasting, J. F.; Levrard, B.; Paillet, J.; Ribas, I.; Delfosse, X.; et al. (2007). "Habitable planets around the star Gl 581?". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 476 (3): 1373–1387. arXiv:0710.5294. Bibcode:2007A&A...476.1373S. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078091.
Age of the Earth

The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years (4.54 × 109 years ± 1%). This age may represent the age of the Earth's accretion, of core formation, or of the material from which the Earth formed. This dating is based on evidence from radiometric age-dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the radiometric ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples.

Following the development of radiometric age-dating in the early 20th century, measurements of lead in uranium-rich minerals showed that some were in excess of a billion years old.

The oldest such minerals analyzed to date—small crystals of zircon from the Jack Hills of Western Australia—are at least 4.404 billion years old. Calcium–aluminium-rich inclusions—the oldest known solid constituents within meteorites that are formed within the Solar System—are 4.567 billion years old, giving a lower limit for the age of the solar system.

It is hypothesised that the accretion of Earth began soon after the formation of the calcium-aluminium-rich inclusions and the meteorites. Because the exact amount of time this accretion process took is not yet known, and the predictions from different accretion models range from a few million up to about 100 million years, the exact age of Earth is difficult to determine. It is also difficult to determine the exact age of the oldest rocks on Earth, exposed at the surface, as they are aggregates of minerals of possibly different ages.

Archean

The Archean Eon ( , also spelled Archaean or Archæan) is one of the four geologic eons of Earth history, occurring 4,000 to 2,500 million years ago (4 to 2.5 billion years ago). During the Archean, the Earth's crust had cooled enough to allow the formation of continents and life started to form.

Chronology of the universe

The chronology of the universe describes the history and future of the universe according to Big Bang cosmology. The earliest stages of the universe's existence are estimated as taking place 13.8 billion years ago, with an uncertainty of around 21 million years at the 68% confidence level.

Crust (geology)

In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet, dwarf planet, or natural satellite. It is usually distinguished from the underlying mantle by its chemical makeup; however, in the case of icy satellites, it may be distinguished based on its phase (solid crust vs. liquid mantle).

The crusts of Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Io, and other planetary bodies formed via igneous processes, and were later modified by erosion, impact cratering, volcanism, and sedimentation.

Most terrestrial planets have fairly uniform crusts. Earth, however, has two distinct types: continental crust and oceanic crust. These two types have different chemical compositions and physical properties, and were formed by different geological processes.

Earliest known life forms

The earliest known life forms on Earth are putative fossilized microorganisms found in hydrothermal vent precipitates. The earliest time that life forms first appeared on Earth is unknown. They could have lived earlier than 3.77 billion years ago, possibly as early as 4.28 billion years ago, or nearly 4.5 billion years ago according to some; in any regards, not long after the oceans formed 4.41 billion years ago, and not long after the formation of the Earth 4.54 billion years ago. The earliest direct evidence of life on Earth are microfossils of microorganisms permineralized in 3.465-billion-year-old Australian Apex chert rocks.

Eobacterium

Eobacterium is an extinct genus of bacteria from the Fig Tree Formation in Africa. It is about 3 billion years old, one of the oldest known living organisms. The discovery of Eobacterium and other Fig Tree organisms in the 1960s helped prove that life existed over three billion years ago.

Formation and evolution of the Solar System

The formation and evolution of the Solar System began 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disk out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed.

This model, known as the nebular hypothesis was first developed in the 18th century by Emanuel Swedenborg, Immanuel Kant, and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Its subsequent development has interwoven a variety of scientific disciplines including astronomy, physics, geology, and planetary science. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s and the discovery of extrasolar planets in the 1990s, the model has been both challenged and refined to account for new observations.

The Solar System has evolved considerably since its initial formation. Many moons have formed from circling discs of gas and dust around their parent planets, while other moons are thought to have formed independently and later been captured by their planets. Still others, such as Earth's Moon, may be the result of giant collisions. Collisions between bodies have occurred continually up to the present day and have been central to the evolution of the Solar System. The positions of the planets might have shifted due to gravitational interactions. This planetary migration is now thought to have been responsible for much of the Solar System's early evolution.

In roughly 5 billion years, the Sun will cool and expand outward to many times its current diameter (becoming a red giant), before casting off its outer layers as a planetary nebula and leaving behind a stellar remnant known as a white dwarf. In the far distant future, the gravity of passing stars will gradually reduce the Sun's retinue of planets. Some planets will be destroyed, others ejected into interstellar space. Ultimately, over the course of tens of billions of years, it is likely that the Sun will be left with none of the original bodies in orbit around it.

Future of Earth

The biological and geological future of Earth can be extrapolated based upon the estimated effects of several long-term influences. These include the chemistry at Earth's surface, the rate of cooling of the planet's interior, the gravitational interactions with other objects in the Solar System, and a steady increase in the Sun's luminosity. An uncertain factor in this extrapolation is the ongoing influence of technology introduced by humans, such as climate engineering, which could cause significant changes to the planet. The current Holocene extinction is being caused by technology and the effects may last for up to five million years. In turn, technology may result in the extinction of humanity, leaving the planet to gradually return to a slower evolutionary pace resulting solely from long-term natural processes.Over time intervals of hundreds of millions of years, random celestial events pose a global risk to the biosphere, which can result in mass extinctions. These include impacts by comets or asteroids, and the possibility of a massive stellar explosion, called a supernova, within a 100-light-year radius of the Sun. Other large-scale geological events are more predictable. Milankovitch theory predicts that the planet will continue to undergo glacial periods at least until the Quaternary glaciation comes to an end. These periods are caused by variations in eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth's orbit. As part of the ongoing supercontinent cycle, plate tectonics will probably result in a supercontinent in 250–350 million years. Some time in the next 1.5–4.5 billion years, the axial tilt of the Earth may begin to undergo chaotic variations, with changes in the axial tilt of up to 90°.The luminosity of the Sun will steadily increase, resulting in a rise in the solar radiation reaching the Earth. This will result in a higher rate of weathering of silicate minerals, which will cause a decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In about 600 million years from now, the level of carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. Some plants use the C4 carbon fixation method, allowing them to persist at carbon dioxide concentrations as low as 10 parts per million. However, the long-term trend is for plant life to die off altogether. The extinction of plants will be the demise of almost all animal life, since plants are the base of the food chain on Earth.In about one billion years, the solar luminosity will be 10% higher than at present. This will cause the atmosphere to become a "moist greenhouse", resulting in a runaway evaporation of the oceans. As a likely consequence, plate tectonics will come to an end, and with them the entire carbon cycle. Following this event, in about 2–3 billion years, the planet's magnetic dynamo may cease, causing the magnetosphere to decay and leading to an accelerated loss of volatiles from the outer atmosphere. Four billion years from now, the increase in the Earth's surface temperature will cause a runaway greenhouse effect, heating the surface enough to melt it. By that point, all life on the Earth will be extinct. The most probable fate of the planet is absorption by the Sun in about 7.5 billion years, after the star has entered the red giant phase and expanded beyond the planet's current orbit.

Great Oxygenation Event

The Great Oxygenation Event, the beginning of which is commonly known in scientific media as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE, also called the Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Crisis, Oxygen Holocaust, Oxygen Revolution, or Great Oxidation) was the biologically induced appearance of dioxygen (O2) in Earth's atmosphere. Geological, isotopic, and chemical evidence suggests a start of around 2.45 billion years ago (2.45 Ga), during the Siderian period, at the beginning of the Proterozoic eon. The causes of the event remain unclear. As of 2016, the geochemical and biomarker evidence for the development of oxygenic photosynthesis before the Great Oxidation Event is inconclusive.Oceanic cyanobacteria, which evolved into coordinated (but not multicellular or even colonial) macroscopic forms more than 2.3 billion years ago (approximately 200 million years before the GOE), were the first microbes to produce oxygen by photosynthesis. Before the GOE, free oxygen was chemically captured by dissolved iron or organic matter. The GOE started after other oxygen reservoirs were filled.

The increased production of oxygen set Earth's original atmosphere off-balance. Free oxygen is toxic to obligate anaerobic organisms, and the rising concentrations may have destroyed most such organisms.A spike in chromium contained in ancient rock-deposits formed underwater shows the accumulation washed off from the continental shelves. Chromium is not easily dissolved and its release from rocks requires the presence of a powerful acid. One such acid, sulfuric acid (H2SO4), might have formed through bacterial reactions with pyrite. Mats of oxygen-producing cyanobacteria can produce a thin layer, one or two millimeters thick, of oxygenated water in an otherwise anoxic environment even under thick ice; before oxygen started accumulating in the atmosphere, these organisms would already have adapted to oxygen. Additionally, the free oxygen would have reacted with atmospheric methane, a greenhouse gas, greatly reducing its concentration and triggering the Huronian glaciation, possibly the longest episode of glaciation in Earth's history and called "snowball Earth".Eventually, the evolution of aerobic organisms that consumed oxygen established an equilibrium in its availability. Free oxygen has been an important constituent of the atmosphere ever since.

Hadean

The Hadean ( ) is a geologic eon of the Earth pre-dating the Archean. It began with the formation of the Earth about 4.6 billion years ago and ended, as defined by the ICS, 4 billion years ago. As of 2016, the ICS describes its status as "informal". Geologist Preston Cloud coined the term in 1972, originally to label the period before the earliest-known rocks on Earth. W. Brian Harland later coined an almost synonymous term, the "Priscoan period", from priscus, the Latin word for "ancient". Other, older texts simply refer to the eon as the Pre-Archean.

History of Earth

The history of Earth concerns the development of planet Earth from its formation to the present day. Nearly all branches of natural science have contributed to understanding of the main events of Earth's past, characterized by constant geological change and biological evolution.

The geological time scale (GTS), as defined by international convention, depicts the large spans of time from the beginning of the Earth to the present, and its divisions chronicle some definitive events of Earth history. (In the graphic: Ga means "billion years ago"; Ma, "million years ago".) Earth formed around 4.54 billion years ago, approximately one-third the age of the universe, by accretion from the solar nebula. Volcanic outgassing probably created the primordial atmosphere and then the ocean, but the early atmosphere contained almost no oxygen. Much of the Earth was molten because of frequent collisions with other bodies which led to extreme volcanism. While the Earth was in its earliest stage (Early Earth), a giant impact collision with a planet-sized body named Theia is thought to have formed the Moon. Over time, the Earth cooled, causing the formation of a solid crust, and allowing liquid water on the surface.

The Hadean eon represents the time before a reliable (fossil) record of life; it began with the formation of the planet and ended 4.0 billion years ago. The following Archean and Proterozoic eons produced the beginnings of life on Earth and its earliest evolution. The succeeding eon is the Phanerozoic, divided into three eras: the Palaeozoic, an era of arthropods, fishes, and the first life on land; the Mesozoic, which spanned the rise, reign, and climactic extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs; and the Cenozoic, which saw the rise of mammals. Recognizable humans emerged at most 2 million years ago, a vanishingly small period on the geological scale.

The earliest undisputed evidence of life on Earth dates at least from 3.5 billion years ago, during the Eoarchean Era, after a geological crust started to solidify following the earlier molten Hadean Eon. There are microbial mat fossils such as stromatolites found in 3.48 billion-year-old sandstone discovered in Western Australia. Other early physical evidence of a biogenic substance is graphite in 3.7 billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks discovered in southwestern Greenland as well as "remains of biotic life" found in 4.1 billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia. According to one of the researchers, "If life arose relatively quickly on Earth … then it could be common in the universe."Photosynthetic organisms appeared between 3.2 and 2.4 billion years ago and began enriching the atmosphere with oxygen. Life remained mostly small and microscopic until about 580 million years ago, when complex multicellular life arose, developed over time, and culminated in the Cambrian Explosion about 541 million years ago. This sudden diversification of life forms produced most of the major phyla known today, and divided the Proterozoic Eon from the Cambrian Period of the Paleozoic Era. It is estimated that 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth, over five billion, have gone extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 10 million to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million are documented, but over 86 percent have not been described. However, it was recently claimed that 1 trillion species currently live on Earth, with only one-thousandth of one percent described.The Earth's crust has constantly changed since its formation, as has life has since its first appearance. Species continue to evolve, taking on new forms, splitting into daughter species, or going extinct in the face of ever-changing physical environments. The process of plate tectonics continues to shape the Earth's continents and oceans and the life they harbor. Human activity is now a dominant force affecting global change, harming the biosphere, the Earth's surface, hydrosphere, and atmosphere with the loss of wild lands, over-exploitation of the oceans, production of greenhouse gases, degradation of the ozone layer, and general degradation of soil, air, and water quality.

Libya Montes

The Libya Montes are a highland terrain on Mars up-lifted by the giant impact that created the Isidis basin to the north.

During 1999, this region became one of the top two that were being considered for the canceled Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander. The Isidis basin is very ancient. Thus, the Libya Montes that form the southern Isidis basin rim contain some of the oldest rocks available at the Martian surface, and a landing in this region might potentially provide information about conditions on early Mars.

After they formed by the Isidis impact, the Libya Montes were subsequently modified by a large variety of processes, including fluvial activity, wind erosion and impact cratering. In particular, precipitation induced surface runoff and groundwater seepage resulted in the formation of fluvial landforms, i.e., dense valley networks, broad and elongated valleys, delta deposits, alluvial fans, open-basin paleolakes and coastlines. Crater size - frequency distribution measurements ("crater counting") revealed that the majority of valleys were formed early in Martian history (more than 3.7 billion years ago, Late Noachian). However, recent studies show that the formation of valleys continued throughout the Middle Ages of Mars (Hesperian period) and stopped 3.1 billion years ago in the Late Hesperian.

Milky Way

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. The name describes the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. The term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, "milky circle"). From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe. Following the 1920 Great Debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies.

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years (ly). It is estimated to contain 100–400 billion stars and more than 100 billion planets. The Solar System is located at a radius of 26,490 (± 100) light-years from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of the Orion Arm, one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust. The stars in the innermost 10,000 light-years form a bulge and one or more bars that radiate from the bulge. The galactic center is an intense radio source known as Sagittarius A*, assumed to be a supermassive black hole of 4.100 (± 0.034) million solar masses.

Stars and gases at a wide range of distances from the Galactic Center orbit at approximately 220 kilometers per second. The constant rotation speed contradicts the laws of Keplerian dynamics and suggests that much of the mass of the Milky Way is invisible to our telescopes, neither emitting nor absorbing electromagnetic radiation. This conjectural mass has been termed "dark matter". The rotational period is about 240 million years at the radius of the Sun. The Milky Way as a whole is moving at a velocity of approximately 600 km per second with respect to extragalactic frames of reference. The oldest stars in the Milky Way are nearly as old as the Universe itself and thus probably formed shortly after the Dark Ages of the Big Bang.The Milky Way has several satellite galaxies and is part of the Local Group of galaxies, which form part of the Virgo Supercluster, which is itself a component of the Laniakea Supercluster.

NGC 37

NGC 37 is a lenticular galaxy located in the Phoenix constellation. It is approximately 42 kiloparsecs (137,000 light-years) in diameter and about 12.9 billion years old.

North China Craton

The North China Craton is a continental crustal block with one of Earth's most complete and complex record of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic processes. It is located in northeast China, Inner Mongolia, the Yellow Sea, and North Korea. The term craton designates this as a piece of continent that is stable, buoyant and rigid. Basic properties of the cratonic crust include being thick (around 200 km), relatively cold when compared to other regions, and low density. The North China Craton is an ancient craton, which experienced a long period of stability and fitted the definition of a craton well. However, the North China Craton later experienced destruction of some of its deeper parts (decratonization), which means that this piece of continent is no longer as stable.The North China Craton was at first some discrete, separate blocks of continents with independent tectonic activities. In the Paleoproterozoic (2.5-1.8 billion years ago) the continents collided and amalgamated and interacted with the supercontinent, creating belts of metamorphic rocks between the formerly separate parts. The exact process of how the craton was formed is still under debate. After the craton was formed, it stayed stable until the middle of the Ordovician period (480 million years ago). The roots of the craton were then destabilised in the Eastern Block and entered a period of instability. The rocks formed in the Archean and Paleoproterozoic eons (4.6-1.6 billion years ago) were significantly overprinted during the root destruction. Apart from the records of tectonic activities, the craton also contains important mineral resources, such as iron ores and rare earth elements, and fossils records of evolutionary development.

Paleoproterozoic

Paleoproterozoic Era ( ;), spanning the time period from 2,500 to 1,600 million years ago (2.5–1.6 Ga), is the first of the three sub-divisions (eras) of the Proterozoic Eon. The Paleoproterozoic is also the longest era of the Earth's geological history. It was during this era that the continents first stabilized.

Paleontological evidence suggests that the Earth's rotational rate during this era resulted in 20-hour days ~1.8 billion years ago, implying a total of ~450 days per year.

Precambrian

The Precambrian (or Pre-Cambrian, sometimes abbreviated pЄ, or Cryptozoic) is the earliest part of Earth's history, set before the current Phanerozoic Eon. The Precambrian is so named because it preceded the Cambrian, the first period of the Phanerozoic eon, which is named after Cambria, the Latinised name for Wales, where rocks from this age were first studied. The Precambrian accounts for 88% of the Earth's geologic time.

The Precambrian (colored green in the timeline figure) is an informal unit of geologic time, subdivided into three eons (Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic) of the geologic time scale. It spans from the formation of Earth about 4.6 billion years ago (Ga) to the beginning of the Cambrian Period, about 541 million years ago (Ma), when hard-shelled creatures first appeared in abundance.

Sun

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers (864,000 miles), or 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System.

Roughly three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V) based on its spectral class. As such, it is informally and not completely accurately referred to as a yellow dwarf (its light is closer to white than yellow). It formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System. The central mass became so hot and dense that it eventually initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that almost all stars form by this process.

The Sun is roughly middle-aged; it has not changed dramatically for more than four billion years, and will remain fairly stable for more than another five billion years. It currently fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result. This energy, which can take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to escape from its core, is the source of the Sun's light and heat. In about 5 billion years, when hydrogen fusion in its core has diminished to the point at which the Sun is no longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, its core will undergo a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand to eventually become a red giant. It is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury and Venus, and render Earth uninhabitable. After this, it will shed its outer layers and become a dense type of cooling star known as a white dwarf, and no longer produce energy by fusion, but still glow and give off heat from its previous fusion.

The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, and the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity. The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of solar calendars, one of which is the predominant calendar in use today.

Vredefort crater

The Vredefort crater is the largest verified impact crater on Earth, more than 300 kilometres (190 mi) across when it was formed. What remains of it is located in the present-day Free State province of South Africa and named after the town of Vredefort, which is situated near its centre. Although the crater itself has long since eroded away, the remaining geological structures at its centre are known as the Vredefort Dome or Vredefort impact structure. The crater is estimated to be 2.023 billion years old (± 4 million years), with impact being in the Paleoproterozoic Era. It is the second-oldest-known crater on Earth.

In 2005, the Vredefort Dome was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites for its geologic interest.

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