1. Honing in on the Great Oxygenation Event

    Researchers looked for a particular sulfur isotope pattern called mass-independent fraction of sulfur isotopes (S-MIF) to determine when oxygen first appeared in the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo source: MIT. Image credit: None
    Researchers looked for a particular sulfur isotope pattern called mass-independent fraction of sulfur isotopes (S-MIF) to determine when oxygen first appeared in the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo source: MIT.

    Scientist at MIT have identified the date of the Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) on Earth, a period of climate change when oxygen became permanently abundant in our atmosphere and provided a step towards the development of complex life on our planet.

    The research, published in Science Advances, posits the rapid oxygenation of Earth at 2.33 billion years ago, plus or minus 7 million years—the most narrowed down estimate to date. These numbers were found by analyzing shifts in the sulfur isotope pattern of pyrite in sediment cores from South Africa. MIT News released a story detailing the research and its implications.

    More information about Foundations of Complex Life, the NASA Astrobiology Institute team at MIT with members involved in the research, is available at http://www.complex-life.org/.