Study measures presence of oxygen in ancient air sample

Study measures presence of oxygen in ancient air sample

In the modern world, it is very easy for scientists to analyze composition of air. Many of us know what it really is, combination of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and many other gasses. However, this has happened for the first time that scientists are able to measure composition of air breathed by earlier creature on Earth.

A study to analyze air composition was led by a team of geologists from the University of Aberdeen. The team studied a sample of 815-million-year-old halite, which commonly called a rock salt. The ancient halite contained traces of trapped atmospheric gas including oxygen. The study findings were published in the Geology journal. The analysis found that proportion of oxygen present back then was sufficient for the survival of animals.

The study was led by Dr Nigel Blamey from New Mexico Tech and a team of international researchers. The researchers crushed samples of halite that was found from a drill core in Australia. Then, they removed the gases trapped in the salt crystals. This helped the team to measure the proportion of oxygen in the gases. Such a measurement is done for the first time ever.

“What is especially significant in this study is that we actually discovered a real atmosphere sample where previous estimates have been made using indirect modelling methods.We had a good idea about how to get at the ancient air and it’s very pleasing that our hunch has paid off”, said Professor John Parnell from the University of Aberdeen’s school of geosciences.

The air sample from ancient time has oxygen contents ranging from 10.3 to 13.1% that is over five times higher than what scientists had previously estimated for the mid Neoproterozoic.