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"Scientists using two different age-determining techniques have shown that a tiny zircon crystal found on a sheep ranch in western Australia is the oldest known piece of our planet, dating to 4.4 billion years ago… They used a technique known as atom-probe tomography that was able to identify individual atoms of lead in the crystal and determine their mass, and confirmed that the zircon was indeed 4.4 billion years old" (Reuters, February 23, 2014). "Researchers said the discovery indicates that Earth’s crust formed relatively soon after the planet formed and that the little gem was a remnant of it… The finding supports the notion of a 'cool early Earth' where temperatures were low enough to sustain oceans, and perhaps life, earlier than previously thought" (ibid.).
This discovery is interesting because it does not support the idea that the earth formed slowly from space debris and dust over billions of years, as some scientists propose. Instead, it suggests that "the planet was perhaps capable of sustaining microbial life 4.3 billion years ago"—relatively soon after it was created—which fits with the biblical account in Genesis.
For more on this topic, read our Tomorrow's World article, "How Old is the Earth?"