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Pergamon

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. S9, No. 8, pp. 144% 1456, 1995 Copyright 0 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in the USA. All rights reserved 0016-7037/95 $9.50 + .oO

0016-7037( 95)00054-2

The age of the Earth*


CLAUDEJ. Laboratoire de GCochimie (Received AL&GUE,GBRARDMANH& et Cosmochimie,

and CHRISTA GBPEL

IPGP, 4, Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France in revised

April 22, 1994; accepted

formFebruary 16, 1995 )

Abstract-Forty years ago, Patterson in his pioneering work on lead isotopes defined the age of the Earth and of the meteorites with 4.55 Ga. We reconsider the question of the age of the Earth and its relation to the age of the meteorites, and similar to Patterson s approach, we use lead isotope systematics. U-Pb investigations of three meteoritic objects on which early thermal and/or chemical events generated large U/Pb fractionations are outlined in this article: refractory inclusions of the Allende meteorite, phosphates in ordinary chondrites and basaltic achondrites. All these samples contain lead with highly radiogenic compositions ( 06Pb/Pb > 150) and therefore their 207Pb-206Pbage is almost independent of the isotopic 04Pb to within the precision of a few million years. The Pb-Pb composition associated with the measured ages of the most radiogenic compositions measured in Allende refractory inclusions range from 4.568 to 4.565 Ga, the Pb-Pb ages of secondary phosphates in equilibrated ordinary chondrites vary from 4.563 to 4.504 Ga, and basaltic achondrites show ages between 4.558 and 4.53 Ga. These age determinations indicate precise time constraints for the classical scenario concerning the formation of the first planetary objects of the solar system. Formation of the Allende refractory inclusions occurs at 4566 %, Ma. Accretion of chondritic bodies occurred at a maximum of 3 Ma later. Eight million years after formation of the Allende inclusions, magmatic activity, including partial melting, magma segregation, and eruption occurs on planetary bodies. During the next 200 Ma thermal processing, shock perturbation, and heating takes place. The meaning of an age of the Earth is evaluated in relation to the major early processes, end of accretion, core formation, and atmosphere extraction. A similar value for the age of the Earth is found based on lead isotopes and I-Xe systematics; this age is about 0.1 Ga younger than that of primitive meteorites. Pb-Pb and I-Xe terrestrial ages are interpreted as mean ages of core segregation and of atmosphere outgassing, resoectivelv. Within this framework, the age of the Earth corresponds to the end of ., its accretion and to its early differentiation.
I -

INTRODUCTION The age of the Earth and of the Sun and the Universe are central questions for mankind. Until the 19th century the ages were unknown; however, at that time with the advent of modem time, a significant debate arose concerning the age of the Earth. Geologists with their prestigious leaders Lye11 and Darwin defended an old age, estimated to be several tenths of billion of years, while physicists tended to defer to Lord Kelvin who claimed that the Earth was not older than a few tens of millions of years. Whereas physicists have physical laws and calculations, geologists only have simple observations of geological phenomena: the erosion rates of mountains, sedimentation rates, and the amount of volcanic eruptions today compared to the total amount of volcanic rocks, and maybe just intuition, but geologists were right (Thomson (Lord Kelvin), 1899; Darwin, 1859; Lyell, 1930; Rutherford and Soddy, 1902). The Earth is not 20 to 100 million years old as Kelvin thought, but rather billions of years as Lye11 ( 1930) claimed. The debate was resolved when the physicist Rutherford ( 1929) used the newly discovered radioactivity for measuring ages of rocks and soon obtained an age of billions of years using the U-He method.

* This paper is dedicated to Dr. Clair C. Patterson on the occasion of his retirement in I992 from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA. 1445

In the middle of this century, Hubble s observations initiated a second debate. This time the target was the age of the Universe (Hubble, 1929). Astronomers and geologists fought about that, and again the geologists were right. Hubble calculated the age of the Universe to be about 2 Ga but Holmes (1946), Gerling (1942), and Houtermans (1946) independently claimed 3 to 4 Ga for the age of the Earth. How can the Earth be older than the Universe? The question was answered by the precise determination of the age of the Earth and meteorites by C. C. Patterson (Patterson, 1953, 1955, 1956; Patterson et al., 1955; Murthy and Patterson, 1962). After this, all timescales were referred to a common point and the fantastic scenarios vanished. Patterson s work established that the age of the Earth and the meteorites is identical (called age of the solar system) and correspond to 4.55 Ga (Figs. 1, 2). Hubble s work on the Galaxy red shift fixed the age of the Universe at variable periods; however, the calibrations were not accurate enough to re-evaluate Patterson s data. Since then the age of the Universe has been evaluated by Hubbell s expansion (Sandage and Tammann, 1974)) by long-lived radioactivities based on nucleosynthesis (Fowler et al., 1962) and the age of galactic clusters (Sandage and Tammann, 1974; van den Bergh, 1981), and is believed to be dependent upon different scenarios, between IO to 15 Ga. A coherent cosmic chronology emerged. In this paper, we reconsider the question of the age of the Earth and its relation to the age of meteorites. The present

1446

C. J. Allegre,

G. Manhts,

and C. Gopel

by a series of complex processes. Distinct approaches used for these two types of planetary objects.

will be

METEORITES
Since Patterson s investigation an enormous amount of work has been undertaken dating meteorites with different chronometers: K-Ar (Wasserburg, 1954; Turner et al., 1978), Rb-Sr (Gopalan and Wetherill, 1968; Papanastassiou and Wasserburg, 1969; Birck and Allegre, 1978; Minster and Allegre, 1979a,b, 1981), U-Pb (Tatsumoto et al., 1973; Tilton, 1973; Wasserburg et al., 1977; Gale et al., 1979; Unruh et al., 1979), and Sm-Nd (Lugmair et al., 1975; Jacobsen and Wasserburg, 1980, 1984). To a first approximation these studies give similar ages of around 4.5 Ga, but progress in the analytical techniques allows the resolution of more detail, including internal isochrons for single meteorites (Wasserburg et al., 1969; Minster and Allegre, 1979a,b) or meteorite groups (Gopalan and Wetherill, 1968, 1969; Minster et al., 1982).

t
ntic and Pacific)

15.4

FIG. I. Patterson s evaluation of modern terrestrial lead. The domain for the isotopic composition of modem terrestrial lead that was evaluated by Patterson (1953) is indicated as dark shaded area. The proximity of this estimate to the 4.55 Ga meteorite isochron (Patterson, 1956), represented as the oblique gray band, validated the idea that the age of the Earth (the time since the Earth reached its present mass) is the same as for meteorites. This first estimate was based on marine sediments (red clay and manganese nodules from the Pacific Ocean) averaging the crust and on a basalt sample (Columbia River basalt) as representative for the mantle. The figure shows Patterson s original data (black symbols) in the context of our present knowledge of the isotopic diversity of the same material.

of the age of the Earth is similar to that determined estimation by Patterson, but progress has led to a high resolution in this chronology; and today the picture is qualitatively different, especially the relationship between the birth of the Earth and the formation of meteoritic materials. Following the pioneering work of Patterson, we also use the U-PI, systems as reference chronometers. It presents several advantageous features: First, the two chronometers 238U-206Pb and 235U-207Pb are characterized by distinct radioactive decay constants but show the same chemical behavior. Thus it is possible to evaluate if the U-Pb evolution occurred in a closed system, or if it was affected by later perturbations. Second, the information of both chronometers is combined in the so-call Pb-Pb approach. This allows us to obtain precise results with a single mass spectrometric measurement (Nier et al., 1941). Third, and this is peculiar for this long-lived chronometer, the 235Uhalf-life is short relative to the age of the solar system and therefore high age resolutions, less than 1 to few lo6 y for old (-4.5 Ga) material can be obtained today. In this paper the U-Pb chronology is not the only one used, but it is the leading one. Instead of covering a large amount of literature (beyond the scope of a short paper) we focus on what we consider as key points and discuss two distinct materials: meteorites and the Earth. Meteorites are witnesses of events that occurred in the early solar system. They are pieces of early planetesimals that escaped the accretion of planets and that traveled through space and time. On the other hand, the Earth is a large planetary object, differentiated and transformed through geological time

Iron Meteorites 100

206Pb/204Pb FIG. 2. Patterson s investigation of meteorites and more recent studies. The original Pb-Pb meteorite isochron (Patterson, 1956) is constructed with the lead data from two iron meteorites (Canyon Diablo and Henbury), two ordinary chondrites (H5 Forest City, L5 Modoc), and the basaltic achondrite Nuevo Laredo. Data from Patterson, shown as plain circles, plot on a line in *Pb/zPb vs. *Pb/ Z06Pb diagram, its slope of 0.59 -C 0.01 corresponds to an age of 4.55 ? 0.07 Ga when the decay constants from Fleming et al. (1952) are used. The same slope translates to a younger age, 4.484 5 0.030 Ga, when the recommended and more precise decay constants from Jaffey et al. (1971) are applied. More recent lead measurements of the same meteorites are symbolised as open circles, their lead isotopic compositions are more radiogenic and their ratios of the radiogenic Pb and *Pb components are slightly higher (Tatsumoto et al., 1973; Unruh, 1982). The lead model age lies close to 4.55 Ga with the uranium decay constants of Jaffey et al. (1971). So Patterson predicted the correct Pb-Pb age for bulk meteoritic material! More recent lead studies of iron meteorites (Tatsumoto et al., 1973; Chen and Wasserburg, 1983; Gopel et al., 1985) are shown in the insert of this figure. They have redefined the primordial lead isotope composition with a higher precision (the analytical precision is smaller than the size of the symbol) than the first determinations: the error bars correspond to the uncertainty associated to the average from seven individual lead analysis from troilites of iron meteorites (Murthy and Patterson, 1962).

The age of the Earth revisited

I447

TABLE
v,

1. Lead
Y

isotopic type
inclus,im;
leach leach leach

composition 206Pb/204Pb
290 251 896 186 * 66 k 24 f 153 * 4

and Pb-Pb

model age of
ref.
(I) (1) (1) (1)

hiahlv radiocenic meteorite samnles sample


Lllende rg;tory
Br9i6 48Ci7 Al/7

Pb/F b age
4.5657 4,5683 4,566O 4,5651 + f + k 0.0026 0.0031 O,ooO7 0.0009

Yosphates

GUal-elia KelIXX& Allegan Richardton Nadiahondi Ste. Marewrite Forestkde Marion (Iowa) Barwell
AUSSOtl

fromordinary

Knyabinya Homestead stseverin Guidder Tuxtuac

H6 H6 H5 H5 H5 H4 H4 L6 LS-6 L5 L5 L5 LL6 LL5 LL5

chondn tes

All lead data reported here (Table 1 ), were obtained in parallel with a steady improvement of the analytical techniques using thermal ionisation mass spectrometry. One of the key messages given by Patterson is that nothing in geochemistry can be obtained without careful analytical work; this requires low chemical blanks, and high accuracy and high sensitivity of the mass spectrometric measurements. This message still holds today.

746 1779 160 443 109 2960 364 977 3468 557 266 1517 270 1445 514

+ + ?I * f + + k k I! C c f It f

I1 32 5 18 29 228 1 24 753 10 61 114 5 182 38

4,5044 4,5211 4.5502 4.5514 4.5556 4.5627 4.5609 4.5107 4:5382 4.5268 4.5395 4.5142 4.5536 4.5353 4.5436

* k i f f ?r f* f + + f f i f-

o,cco5 O,ooO5 O,ooO7 0,0006 0.0034 0.0006 0,0007 0.0005 0:0007 0.0009 0.0010 0.0006 0.0007 0.0006 0.0021

(2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) i2j (2) (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)

Allende Inclusions
Refractory inclusions of the Allende C3 meteorite are considered as the oldest objects of the solar system (Gray et al., 1973; Papanastassiou and Wasserburg, 1969). Their peculiar mineralogy (Marvin et al., 1970; Grossman, 1975; Wark and Lovering, 1972; Christophe Michel-Levy, 1986) identify them as high-temperature materials. Most of them show a strong enrichment in the two refractory elements uranium and thorium compared to the volatile element lead (Chen and Tilton, 1976; Tatsumoto et al., 1976; Chen and Wasserburg, 198 1; Arden and Cressey, 1984). Consequently, the high U/ Pb ratios make this material suitable for precise U-Pb chronology. U-Pb age determinations are more accurate when the isotopic composition is highly radiogenic because then the age calculation becomes almost independent of the isotopic composition of the lead that has not been produced by the in situ decay of uranium and thorium. This is illustrated in Fig. 3 which shows that the Pb-Pb model age becomes older with the increasingly radiogenic character of lead of the inclusions. The variable radiogenic character of lead probably results

Pas&c achondrites
Angra dos Reis Lewis Cliff 86010 Ibitira Juvinas Bereba Nuevo Laredo f$ frgt frgt frgt

5922 692,5 598,80 690 233.64

k 684 zk 13.2 k 17,9 * f 1.06

4.5578 4.5578 4.556 4,5386 4,536 4,529

f f + f i

O,OlXI4 0,0005 0,006 0.0027 * o,cil5

(3) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)

Ph-Pb ages are calculated using rhe decay constants: A for*% h for 235U = 0.98485 x 10-9 y-l composition

= 0.155125 x 10mgy-1,

(Jaffey et al., 1971) and the primordial Pb isotopic of 204Pb. The age for

from Tatsumoto et al. (1973) for the correction

Juvinas is deduced from U-Ph systematics of fragments and minerals. Ref.: (1) Manhks G., Gdprl C. and All&e C.J. (1988) and unpublished results; (2)

GSpel C.. Manhks G. and Allbgre C. J. (1994)

; (3)

Lugmair G. W. and Galer S. J. G.

(1992); (4) Chen J. H. and Wasserburg G. I. (1985); (5) Manhks G., All&gre C.J. and Provost A. (1984); (6) Carlson R. W., Tera F. and Boctor N. Z. (1988); (7) Tatsumoto M

, Knight

R. J. and All&e

C. J. (1973)

leach= HCI leachates, frgt= small fragments, px= pyroxene. * errors were not indicated

In the sixties, the discovery and application of the extinct radioactivities 29I (Reynolds, 1960; Hohenberg et al., 1967) and *%I (Kuroda, 1960) opened a new field of investigation. Evidence for the presence of short-lived * Na, 26A1, 5 Mn, 07Pd, and 14%rn (reviews from Wasserburg, 1985, and Podosek and Swindle, 1988) provides timescales for the isolation of the solar nebula from the interstellar medium and for the formation of small planets. We highlight the U-Pb systematics of three meteoritic objects: Allende refractory inclusions, ordinary chondrites, and basaltic achondrites. The first two types of materials occur in undifferentiated parent bodies, the third one originates in highly differentiated bodies. These samples are considered for two reasons:

ol

IO

100

1000

20sPb/204Pb
FIG. 3. Apparent Pb-Pb ages of refractory inclusions (CAIs) from the Allende meteorite vs. their measured Z Pb/2U4Pb ratios. The PbPb model age is calculated assuming that the primordial lead isotopic composition (Tatsumoto et al., 1973; Gopel et al., 1985) is associated with the measured 2MPbcomponent. Published bulk analysis of sixteen Allende CAIs are shown as open symbols (Tatsumoto et al., 1973: squares; Chen and Tilton, 1976: diamonds; Chen and Wasserburg, 198 1: circles; Arden and Cressey, 1984: triangles). The appar ent Pb-Pb ages increase with the radiogenic character. The most radiogenic leachates obtained by the differential dissolution techniques of four Allende inclusions are indicated as plain circles. As shown in the insert, all samples characterized by radiogenic compositions (2 Pb/?04Pb > 150) are compatible with an age of 4.566 f XP/_O,X,, Ga.

1) They can be dated with a high precision by the U-Pb system, because they contain highly radiogenic lead. 2) Their Pb-Pb age can be used as a key boundary when establishing meteorite parent body formation and evolution. In considering the U-Pb system the intention is not to diminish the value of other chronometric approaches, but to understand the processes involved by the clear constraints provided by the most precise long-lived chronology available.

1448

C. J. Alltgre,

G. Manhts,

and C. Gopel

from a contamination by lead from the matrix that is volatile rich and characterized by a low UlPb ratio, and nonradiogenic lead. This observation subsequently directed our approach. We analyzed several Allende inclusions by a differential dissolution technique (Manhes et al., 1988). These inclusions are primitive, indicated by independent signatures (titanium isotopic, chromium isotopic anomalies and extinct 3Mn, Birck and Allegre, 1984, 1988). During the differential dissolution steps, the radiogenic character of lead and the concordant character of the U-Pb system increase concomitantly. This feature is consistent with the interpretation that some lead from the matrix was incorporated into the inclusions. Apparently the progressive dissolution technique preferentially extracts this lead component. The most radiogenic leachates that plot closest to the Concordia curve (not shown here) are used for the age determination of these inclusions (Table 1) Because of their highly radiogenic character ( 2Pb/204Pb between 2 10 and 900), the Pb-Pb age of these leachates is defined with a precision of 3 to 0.7 Ma. The ages range between 4.565 -C 0.001 Ga and 4.568 -t 0.0003 Ga; there is no evidence of an age difference between the different inclusions within the experimental error. The age of 4566 */_r Ma is compatible with former estimations 4.569 -C 0.004 Ga (Tilton, 1988) and represents the oldest reliable age for meteoritic materials dated by the U-Pb chronometers. What is the significance this age? Since the discovery of oxygen anomalies in the Allende meteorite and especially in refractory inclusions (Clayton, 1975)) two contradictory interpretations concerning the origin of the Allende inclusions and the isotopic anomalies of the different elements have been proposed (Lee et al., 1976, 1979; Niederer et al., 1980; McCulloch and Wasserburg, 1978): The first one assumes that refractory inclusions are material that formed at the time of the isolation of the solar system. Isotopic anomalies are in this model products of supernova explosions which occurred just before the formation of the solar system. The other model claims that these inclusions contain preserved stardust that is much older than the solar system formation. D. D. Clayton postulates in this second model that isotope anomalies are fossils that formed a long time ago in one of the several explosions of supernovae continually occurring throughout the history of the galaxy (Clayton, 1975, 1982, 1986). The application of the 20 Pb-206Pb chronometer on refracinclusions clearly resolves this ambiguity. The *Pb/ *06Pb ratio is a very sensitive chronometer for the presolar period because of the short half-life of 235Uand the large abundance of this nuclide at that time. In the *07Pb/2Pb-206Pb/ *04Pb diagram (Fig. 4) the measured lead isotopic compositions of the Allende inclusions indicate a maximum age of 4.57 Ga. Any significant contribution of stardust that is a billion years older than the solar system should be resolved by higher 207Pb/206Pb ratios, which are not observed. Therefore, refractory inclusions of Allende are mineralogical objects formed just before or during the isolation or
tory

FIG. 4. The *07Pb-*6Pb chronometer and the presolar period. The evolution of measured Pb/Lo6Pb ratios vs. PbpPb ratios is indicated for different closure times of the U-PI, system. Isochrons (solid lines) issued from primordial lead (open square) become flat when *38U/LMPb > 100. For such high U/Pb ratios, the *07PbfPb ratio directly defines the ratio of the radiogenic lead components. Note its large variation for times ~4.5 Ga, corresponding to a factor of 2 for the period 5.5-4.5 Ga. The radiogenic lead isotopic compositions (206PbpPb > 150) extracted from Allende refractory inclusions (represented as plain circles) argue against the contribution of unaffected presolar material much older than 4.57 Ga.

within the solar system. The 207Pb/2Pb age indicates the time when this refractory material condensed and incorporated uranium in trace amounts. How did these inclusions form? They could have condensed in the remnants of explosive stars. The occurrence of short-lived 26A1 implies that the stellar events happened no more than a few million years before the isolation of the solar nebula. Or the refractory material formed during the early thermal evolution of the solar nebula. Irrespective of whether the environment was stellar or nebular, the Pb/Pb age of the refractory material defines the formation of the solar nebula.

Ordinary Chondrites Ordinary chondrites include three chemical groups: H-, L-, and LL-chondrites (Urey and Craig, 1953). Each group spans the textural range from petrologic type 3 to type 6, describing increasing degrees of metamorphism (van Schmus and Wood, 1967). We determined U-Pb systematics of phosphates from equilibrated ordinary chondrites (Gopel et al., 1994). Phosphates (merrilite and apatite) in ordinary chondrites are secondary accessory mineral phases, produced during postformation thermal processing of chondrites; they are major hosts for uranium, which is enriched by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude relative to the bulk rock (0.1-3 vs. 0.01 ppm, respectively). Because of this, phosphates contain highly radiogenic lead and are suitable minerals for precise U-Pb dating. Phosphates from fifteen equilibrated chondrites were separated and analysed. These include seven H chondrites (metamorphic grade 4, 5, and 6)) five L chondrites (meta-

The age of the Earth revisited

1449

morphic grade 5 and 6), and three LL chondrites (metamorphic grade 5 and 6). It was not possible to study phosphates from type 3 chondrites because of their rarity and small grain size. The high *?J/ 04Pb ratios of thirteen of these phosphates lead to highly radiogenic lead with ZPb/204Pb ratios ranging from 250 up to 3500 (Table 1). All phosphates show concordant U-Pb ages (Fig. 5b). Their Pb-Pb model ages are defined with a precision from 3 to 0.5 Ma, they range from 4563 to 4504 Ma. L- and LL-chondrites do not show any relationship between the degree of metamorphism and their 207Pb-206Pbages. In contrast, the Pb-Pb ages of the phosphates of H chondrites show a negative correlation with their metamorphic grade. This is the first clear relationship ever observed between the ages given by a long-lived chronometer and the intensity of metamorphism. Which process is recorded by this Pb-Pb time span? The Concordia curve is nearly linear for times older than 4 Ga (Fig. 5a). Following the classical interpretation ( Wetherill, 1963), if a U-Pb radiometric system, isolated at time T, suffers an episodic loss of uranium or lead at time t, , the representative point in the Concordia diagram will be on the chord joining the point corresponding to T and t, on the Concordia curve. However, if t, is older than 4 Ga, the chord merges

with the Concordia. Therefore, with the present precision of the U/PI, abundance ratio determination, one cannot distinguish between a strictly concordant and a disturbed U-Pb system in this age range. Thus, an apparently concordant U-Pb system does not imply a closed-system behavior during this early period. The interpretation of these Pb-Pb ages as the accurate UPb thermal closure during the cooling in the parent bodie( s) of H chondrites has been already discussed (Gijpel et al., 1994). However, the line defined by the set of apparent phosphate ages from chondrites should be interpreted more as a discordia chord rather than a set of true ages. The information from terrestrial rocks seems to show that apatite loses lead more easily than uranium (Tilton and Griinenfelder, 1968). In other words, an age apparently younger than the formation age is expected rather than the opposite. This observation is strictly valid under terrestrial conditions but the extrapolation for chondritic apatite does not seem to be unreasonable. The oldest measured age, 4.563 Ga, then indicates the minimum formation age of H4 chondrites; whereas the age of 4.504 Ga, measured for H6 Guarefia, indicates a maximum age for the perturbation event. We are aware that this scenario with a unique formation age and a single perturbation event is an oversimplification in

238 ,206
0.75
I

Pb*

238 ,206

Pb*

I H4 Ste.Marguerlte ----------

H5 Nadiabondl H5 Richardton

--- t+i ---------.,I -1

--------

LL6

St. Severin

0.62

0.50

lH5 Allegan

-~-~~

LL5 Tuxtuac

-~~-~-

LL5 Guidder

0.61

0.25

,L5 Homestead L6 Marion -

0.60

Concordia ~
0
I I

FIG. 5. Modified IJ-Pb Concordia diagram after Tera and Wasserburg (1972) for phosphates from ordinary chondrites. Figure 5a illustrates that the U-Pb signature of an episodic crisis is recorded quite differently dependent upon the time. The concordia curve is shown for ages between 4.8 and 1 Ga. If uranium and/or lead have been mobilized at a time significantly younger than 4 Ga (in the figure I, is taken at 1 Ga), the observed U/Pb systematics plots outside the Concordia curve. In contrast when the time of perturbation is old (t; = 4 Ga), the discordia merges with the Concordia curve (the dashed line in the figure represents the prolongation of the discordia). The U-Pb ratio needs to be defined with a relative precision better than lO-4 in order to make the distinction between a strictly concordant or a disturbed U-Pb system in the first 200 Ma of the solar system. Such a precision is two orders of magnitude greater than that obtained in the study of phosphates (GGpel et al., 1994) and it cannot be achieved with experimental techniques available today (Chen and Wasserburg, 1981). Figure 5b is a close up of the Concordia corresponding to ages between 4.58 and 4.49 Ga and indicated as open rectangle in Fig. 5a. The radiogenic components Z06Pb* and *07Pb* are calculated assuming that the measured @ Pb component has a primordial isotopic composition. The U-Pb data of chondritic phosphates are shown. Phosphates from H-, L-, and LL-chondrites are indicated as diamonds, circles, or stars, respectively. The more radiogenic phosphates plot on the Concordia curve, while less radiogenic phosphates (H5 Nadiabondi, H5 Allegan, L5 Knyahinya, and LL6 St. Stverin) show a small apparent excess of radiogenic lead. It is the result from the lead isotopic composition that has been taken for the correction of the measured zPb (G&e1 et al.. 1994).

1450

C. J. Allegre,

G. Manhes,

and C. Gopel

that the formation ages could be older and the perturbations could be multi-episodic or even quasi-continuous. Nevertheless, the simple two-stage model represents a useful reference and two time constraints are clearly defined in this framework:

1)

2)

The formation of H chondrites is separated by a maximum of 3 Ma from the formation of the Allende refractory inclusions. H chondrites were perturbed by secondary events for 60 Ma or more.

Basaltic Achondrites Achondrites are magmatic rocks that are similar to terrestrial basalts. They show that early planetary differentiation and magmatic activity occurred on small planetary bodies. They are also suitable samples for precise Pb-Pb age determinations because of their highly radiogenic lead isotopic compositions. Two angrites, Angra dos Reis and Lewis Cliff 86010, show highly radiogenic lead isotopic compositions ( 206Pb/204Pb = 5922 and 692 respectively) which defines an identical age of 4.5578 ? 0.0004 Ga (Lugmair and Galer, 1992). Ibitira is a unique unbrecciated eucrite that appears to be a sample of a lava flow; it defines a similar age, 4.556 -C 0.006 Ga (Chen and Wasserburg, 1985 ) . Other noncumulate eucrites are brecciated and show younger Pb-Pb ages: Juvinas 4.539 + 0.004 Ga (Manhbs et al., 1984), Bereba 4.536 Ga (Carlson et al., 1988), and Nuevo Laredo 4.529 -+ 0.005 Ga (Tatsumoto et al., 1973). These younger ages are probably linked to brecciation processes. The ages of Ibitira and the angrites date the crystallisation of igneous rocks. These lavas, erupting at the surface of the parent bodies, were created by partial melting inside their parent body and then rapidly transferred to the surface. To generate such melts by partial melting of ultramafic material, which constitutes the pristine source material, the temperature must reach between 1100 and 1200C. Therefore, this age records the time when high temperatures occurred inside the eucrite and angrite parent bodies. We conclude that magmatic activity occurred in some meteorites parent bodies 5 Ma or less after the formation of chondrites. Discussion on the Early History of Meteorite Parent Bodies Before we outline a scenario for the early history of meteorite parent bodies, we compare the results based on the UPb system with information derived from other chronologies. 4oAr-39Ar dating coupled with a step heating procedure defines the time when the retention of radiogenic argon started and allows us to detect if a secondary reheating event occurred. The chondrites that did not suffer from apparent secondary processes, show ages ranging from 4.53 2 0.03 Ga to 4.38 2 0.03 Ga (Turner et al., 1978; compilation by Lipschutz et al., 1989). This 150 Ma time span is interpreted as translating parent body cooling ages and/or as recording the early period of brecciation and shock events during the accretion of planetesimals. The time span indicated by the 40Ar-19Ar systematics is compatible with Pb-Pb record of chondritic

phosphates on the basis of our present knowledge of the closure temperatures of these two isotopic systems. Absolute age determinations the * Rb-* Sr systematics define a global age of 4.498 ? 0.015 Ga for H-, LL-, and Echondrites (Minster et al., 1982). A similar but less precise age is defined for basaltic achondrites (Papanastassiou and Wasserburg, 1969; Birck and Allegre, 1978). The precision, corresponding to a few tens of Ma, associated to the individual Rb-Sr ages, restricts their use for a comparative chronology. The importance of the initial Sr/Sr approach is that a relative model-dependent chronology can be defined with a temporal resolution of a few million years, when an isotopic evolution in a solar (Rb/Sr - 0.6) or chondritic (( Rb/Sr - 0.3) reservoir is considered ( Wasserburg et al., 1969). The initial ?Sr/ %r systematics in Allende inclusions deline a maximum time interval of 3 Ma for their formation from a solar type reservoir (Podosek et al., 1991). The time gap between the formation of this refractory material and ordinary chondrites is evaluated to be 3 2 6 Ma or 6 -C 12 Ma, depending if a solar or chondritic reservoir is considered (Minster et al., 1982). These time estimates are compatible with the more precise evaluations deduced from the Pb-Pb systematics (Fig. 6). The time difference between the formation of the Allende refractory inclusions and the crystallisation of basaltic achondrites is less well established by the initial Sr/ %r method. The reason for this is that the Rb/Sr ratio of the reservoir( s ) of basaltic achondrites is poorly constrained. When a chondritic or solar type Rb/Sr evolution is considered, this time interval corresponds to 10 2 3 or 22 + s/_5 Ma, respectively. The first value is compatible with the time difference of 8 Ma, deduced from Pb-Pb systematics. The Rb-Sr system is of limited use for evaluating precisely the period of thermal evolution of chondrites. A time interval of 200 +- 50 Ma is evaluated from the few internal isochrons

At (mvr)

Pb-Pb

age (LE)

4.50

4.55 -

FIG. 6. Pb-Pb chronology in meteoritic material, characterized by high z3sU/zPb values. Pb-Pb ages are indicated as absolute ages (lower abscissa) or as time differences (upper abscissa) relative to 4.566 Ga, which corresponds to the Pb-Pb age defined by the most radiogenic Allende refractory inclusions. Two different types of achondrites are represented: angrites (open triangles) and eucrites (symbolised by open squares). Phosphates from ordinary chondrites are shown as open circles. The number above the symbol indicates the metamorphic grade of the host meteorites. The oldest samples of achondrites and chondrites indicates that the early formation of planetary bodies relative to Allende, the time interval of 6 Ma indicated by the spread of ages, is interpreted as the early period of accretion and shock events.

The age of the Earth revisited

1451

which have been obtained (Minster et al., 1982). The application of the Srl*%r initial ratio approach (Wasserburg et al., 1969) on phosphates of ordinary chondrites (Brannon et al., 1988; Podosek and Brannon, 1991) is delicate. Apatites are acceptors of * Sr and cannot systematically be considered as good indicators for initial strontium ratios (Manhbs et al., 1978a). The occurrence of the extinct radioactivity 1 in meteorites (Jeffrey and Reynolds, 1961; Reynolds, 1963) was used for dating meteorites (Hohenberg et al., 1967 ). The I-Xe system has the potential of a high age resolution; however, there is a significant uncertainty in how to interpret these relative ages. Both elements, iodine, and xenon, are volatile and their behavior during metamorphism and shock event is not yet understood. In addition, there is no guarantee that the 2yI/ 271in the solar nebula was initially homogeneous. However, if I-Xe is considered as a functional chronometer, then the time interval derived for chondrites corresponds to about 20 Ma (review by Swindle and Podosek, 1988). It does not seem to record the same events as the U-Pb system; this apparent discrepancy is similar to that noted before between the I-Xe and other long-lived chronometers. On the other hand, excess * I was found in the eucrite Ibitira, but unfortunately no precise age could be obtained ( Wasserburg et al., 1977). Another extinct chronometer, the 26Al-26Mg system, has a high age resolution potential because of short half-live of the 26A1 nuclide (T,,* = 0.72 Ma). Since the discovery of extinct 26A1in Allende inclusions (Lee et al., 1976) and in a Ca-Al chondrule of the unequilibrated chondrite Semarkona (Hinton and Bischoff, 1984), the systematic search in old H4 chondrites led to the detection of extinct 26A1 in Forest Vale and Ste. Marguerite (Zinner and G8pe1, 1992). On the other hand, no evidence of 26A1has been reported in basaltic achondrites (Schramm et al., 1970; Crozaz and McKay, 1990). This brief review indicates that there is good agreement between the information derived from most of these radiometric systems with the chronology based on the 207Pb-206Pb systematics in materials that are characterized by high U/Pb ratios. This allows us to place precise time constraints on the early history of small planetary objects (Fig. 7): inclusions condense in the solar nebula, or in a supernova or in an ABG star envelope. 2) At maximum of 3 Ma later (possibly 1 Ma or less) chondritic bodies are already formed. 3) About 8 Ma after Allende, some magmatic activity occurred on a few parent bodies. This included partial melting, magma segregation, and eruption, as attested by two angrites and one eucrite. 4) Perturbation events, including shock and heating, occurred on chondrite parents bodies during 60 to 150 Ma. Superposition of these different phenomena confused the signatures of the different chronometers. THE EARTH It is difficult to date the Earth, because it is a continuously evolving system, and it is impossible a representative sample. The birth of the Earth by occurred over a significant period of time. Thus, the complex, to obtain accretion difficulty

ATLANTIC

30

N 2o
15 10 5

25

PACIFIC

20

N l5 1 10
5

0.510

0.535

0.550

I : 0.565

0.610

0.635

0.660

0.665

207*Pb/206Pb* I
4.30 4.40 4.50 4.60 4.70

Pb-Pb model age (Ga) of MORBs


FIG. 7. Pb-Pb model age of MORBs. The histograms are based on 201 samples for Atlantic ocean, 183 for Pacific ocean, 199 for Indian

ocean (Allegre et al., 1987; E. Lewin et al., unpubl. data). The Pb*I Pb* axis of the histograms at the bottom of the figure is converted to a Pb-Pb time scale. The mean values of the distributions (dashed areas) correspond to Pb-Pb ages of 4.44 Ga for Atlantic MORBs, 4.43 Ga for Pacific MORBs, 4.48 Ga for Indian MORBs.

1) At 4.566 Ga, Allende refractory

is deciding which process is defined by measuring the age of the Earth? The beginning of accretion, or the subsequent differentiation of the planet? Patterson recognized this complexity and he attempted to use natural averages for the continental crust and mantle in order to determine with lead isotopes the age of the Earth. He applied manganese nodules and sediments for the continental crust and Hawaiian basalts for the mantle (Fig. 1). However, since this time we have learned that the development of the continental crust and the evolution of the mantle is complex. So even Patterson s approach was not good enough for obtaining an accurate age. As reviewed in Darymple s book ( Darymple, 1991), a number of attempts to determine better the age of the Earth have been undertaken during the last thirty years, but none of these has changed the general statement that Earth and meteorites have a common age around 4.55 Ga. The approach presented here is to defend the idea that the age of the Earth, that is, the time where its size is about the present one, is younger than that of the meteorites by about 0.1 Ga or a little more. The Pb-Pb Age of the Earth The modem approach for determining the age of the Earth is to study a unit of the Earth for which the U-P\, decay sup-

1452

C. J. Allegre, G. Manhts, and C. Giipel 1) The dispersion of the values is created by complex mixing phenomena within the mantle. 2) The 207Pb*/206Pb* ratio of BSE is lower than the mean value of the oceanic basalts. 207Pb*/2WPb* values from MORB of different oceans were computed (Fig. 7) ; samples close to hotspots were excluded. The estimates of the Earth s age derived from these lead isotopic ratios are T < 4.44 Ga from Atlantic MORBs, T < 4.43 Ga from Pacific MORBs, and T < 4.48 Ga from Indian MORBs. Therefore, an age value of T < 4.45 Ga is obtained; however, a young age of the Earth was already obtained by the rather complex plumbotectonics approach (Doe and Zartman, 1979). The question now is what does this age mean? A low 238U/ 204Pb value is attributed to the solar nebula. It is inferred from measured values (between 0.1 and 0.25) in Cl chondrites and unequilibrated chondrites (Tilton, 1973; Tatsumoto et al., 1976; Chen and Tilton, 1976; Manhb et al., 1978b; Hanan and Tilton, 1985). These 238U/204Pbvalues are consistent with the upper limit of the sun (238U/204Pb = 0.27) deduced from the abundance in the photosphere (Grevesse and Meyer, 1985; Anders and Grevesse, 1989). A recent study considering the volatile/non-volatile element ratios of meteorites and the Earth ( Allegre et al., 1995) favors a model where the initial 238U/2MPb value for the bulk Earth is slightly higher than that of the solar nebula, but still rather low, around 0.7 (Fig. 8). The same study substantiated the idea that sulfur enters the core. The increase of 238U/204Pb within the Earth from 0.7 up to 7- 10, which is the range of mantle values is in this respect considered to be a consequence of core differentiation. Therefore, the age of the Earth determined by lead isotopes corresponds to the age of core differentiation. The I-Xe Approach The principle for the use of the I-Xe system has been given by G. Wetherill ( 1975). 29Xe in the atmosphere of the Earth is in excess of what is termed primordial xenon by about 6.8% (Pepin and Phinney, 1978). It is assumed that this excess was created by the decay of now extinct radioactive *q. The initial isotope composition of iodine in the Earth is formulated as

posedly has evolved in a closed system. The so-called conformable lead approach (Stanton and Russel, 1959) is an example. No reservoir of the Earth is primitive and did stay a closed system since the beginning. Therefore, we have to develop an approach that takes into account the continuous exchange of material between the different reservoirs. In the framework of this dynamic Earth system, we will show which boundary conditions can be placed for the age of the Earth. We consider the current model for the chemical evolution of the Earth, that is called chemical geodynamics ( Allegre, 1982). The continental crust is extracted out of the mantle. This process stores the incompatible elements into the continental crust while the upper mantle is continuously impoverished in these elements and therefore called depleted mantle. This process is not a one way transfer and involves recycling processes. However, the net result is the balance between continental crust and depleted mantle. A debate concerning this aspect has been carried out. Both elements, uranium and lead, are incompatible, this means they are enriched in the continental crust and depleted in the upper mantle. The question however concerns their relative behavior. Is the U/Pb ratio of the continental crust enriched relative to that of the mantle? After a long period of confusion the answer is: yes. Several pieces of evidence sustain this U/Pb fractionation: of various ages exhibit higher 207Pb/204Pb than mantle material of the same age (Brevart et al., 1986; Gariepy et al., 1985). 2) The present-day upper mantle is characterized by a 238U7/ *04Pb ratio around 5 (Cohen and O Nions, 1982; White, 1993). 3) The explicit balance of the continental crust including the lower crust also favors this model (Rudnick and Goldstein, 1990). As a consequence the lead isotopic composition of the Bulk Silicate Earth (BSE) is expected to lie between those of the depleted mantle and the continental crust. Or expressed in another way, the depleted mantle value indicates a maximum value for the *Pb*/*06Pb* ratio of the radiogenic * Pb and *06Pb which have been produced in the bulk silicate Earth. This 207Pb*/206Pb* ratio is derived from the lead isotope composition of BSE, (206Pb/204Pb)Today.( 20 Pb/2Pb)T~ti~y :

1) Granites

(ig), ,, (3

-(zig),,
where ( 291/ 271)Eis the isotopic ratios of iodine in the Earth, ( 291/ 271)othe isotopic ratio of iodine at the end of nucleosynthesis, and AT the time interval between the end of nucleosynthesis and the formation of the Earth. Following the suggestion of Jeffrey and Reynolds ( 1961) for meteorites, we can use a common reference and eliminate the unknown term ( 291/ 27I)o:

= (?JE?)T da, _(T?!J)o

where the initial composition of the bulk silicate Earth, (Pb/ 2@ Pb)o, ( 207Pb/2@ Pb)ois assimilated to that of Canyon Diablo troilite (Tatsumoto et al., 1973). The *O Pb*/*&Pb * ratio of the bulk silicate Earth is related to its age T by *07Pb* =p ( 20hPb* 1 1 (eh r - 1) 1)

137, 88 (ehT -

It is possible to derive an estimate of this age using the *Pb */ *06Pb* ratios of oceanic basalts. We assume that

ATtE_a) = AT, - AT, being the time interval between the formation of the Earth and formation of Bjurbijle meteorite.

The age of the Earth revisited

1453

abundances in ultramafic nodules, oceanic basalts and sediments (Wtike et al., 1984, DCruelle et al., 1992). We have calculated the AT,E_B) values for a range of iodine abundances of the Earth and for two extreme models reflecting different degrees of outgassing of the Earth (100 and 50%). The resulting age values range between 90 and 130 Ma after the time of xenon retention in BjurbGle (Fig. 9). The most reasonable assumption is that 85% of the Earth is outgassed ( Allbgre and Staudacher, 1994) and that the iodine content for BSE lies between lo-12 ppb. The corresponding ATcE-RJ value is 108 Ma. The absolute age of the Earth corresponds to 4.46 -t 0.02 Ga when the I/Xc retention in BjurbSle is related to the 4.56 Ga Pb-Pb age for the accretion of the parent bodies of ordinary chondrites (Gijpel et al., 1994). This 4.46 Ga age translates the time when the growing planet started to retain its atmosphere, that means when the Earth was a big (Venus-sized) object. The end of the formation of the Earth up to its present size may be even younger. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
FIG. 8. Determination of the U/Pb ratio of the bulk Earth. The evaluation of the U/Pb ratio for the bulk Earth is similar to the method developed by Allbgre et al. (1995) when estimating the sulfur budget of the bulk Earth. The chondrite data that are plotted in the K/U vs. PbLJ diagram are taken from the compilation of Wasson and Kallemeyn (1988). Two trends can be distinguished, one for carbonaceous chondrites and a second one regrouping the other chondrite groups. Using the correlation of carbonaceous chondrites and the terrestrial K/U value of 9600 leads to a corresponding terrestrial PblcT ratio of about 70. This is equivalent to a zssU/204Pb ratio of about 0.7. This value is significantly higher than the value that has been estimated for the solar nebula but it is much lower than the value that has been inferred for the bulk silicate Earth.

It seems that the age of the Earth is at least 0.1 Ga younger than primitive meteorites. What does this time interval signify? What do the Pb-Pb age and the I-Xe ages mean? As stated before, the chronology of an event can only be evaluated if the duration of this event is short compared to its res-

where ( 291/ 271)B = 1.1 X lo- (Podosek,

1970);

= 3.63 X lOI g. Wetherill ( 1975) calculated * I in the Earth from the sum of iodine in the continental crust plus the ocean and obtained a value of 1 X lOI g. This value corresponds to 2.5 ppb in BSE (mass of BSE: 4.1 10 g). Wetherill ( 1975) erroneously obtained an age of 113 Ma, whereas the correct age should be 89 Ma younger than Bjurbijle when these numbers are applied. Since then progress has been made in two directions: 1) It was speculated that the lower mantle cannot be totally degassed. Therefore, the total inventory of lz9Xe may be larger then that of the atmosphere ( Allkgre et al., 1993). 2) A better estimate of the iodine content of the bulk silicate Earth, between 9 and 24 ppb, was derived from the iodine

( lz9Xe Less in the atmosphere

2.5

910 2 1

30

(ppb) it B;E

FIG. 9. I-Xe age of the Earth. The time difference between the IXe retention in the Earth s atmosphere and that in the Bjurbiile chondrite is plotted vs. the iodine abundance in BSE and for different degrees of outgassing of the Earth. The time delay of 105 +25/L,5 Ma is evaluated as follows: the nominal value corresponds to the preferred value of 80% outgassing and an iodine abundance of lo- 12 ppb. The uncertainty corresponding to an interval of 40 Ma takes extreme (50- 100%) degrees of outgassing and the whole range (924 ppb) of I in BSE into account.

1454

C. J. Allegre,

G. Manhts,

and C. Gopel

information is not totally obWe attempt to clarify this in the following discussion (Fig. 10). Refractory inclusions of the Allende meteorite indicate that the condensation of refractory minerals occurred at 4.566 Ga. The accretion of H meteorites started at a maximum of 3 Ma later, by assembling minerals and crystallizing phosphates. The formation time of the small differentiated planetary objects is not constrained, but they must have existed already by 8 to 10 Ma after 4.566 Ga. Since collision produces heat, the accretion process is associated with heating of the planetary bodies and generates the so called metamorphism. We do not exactly understand the mechanism but such heating (and bombing) leads to quite broad age spectrum. Compilations of Ar-Ar or Rb-Sr internal ages indicate a metamorphism interval up to 2.50 Ma. There is little doubt that pieces of the future Earth started to agglomerate as planetesimals, probably at the same time as H4 chondritic material. According to the scenarios of Safronov ( 1969) or Wetherill ( 1975), collision or accretion started within the planetary disk of the solar system. Some collisions end up as accretion, some others as brecciation, some others as semi-elastic meetings. Pb-Pb isotopic terrestrial ages of 4.45 Ga probably represent a mean age of core differentiation. On the other hand the I-Xe age of the Earth is the mean age of the outgassing of the atmosphere. The coincidence between the I-Xe and Pb-Pb ages is striking. It is of course in agreement with the idea that outgassing of the Earth is related to the same phenomenon as the core differentiation. olution. Such a chronological dependent. jective but model

The age of the Earth is then the age of the early differentiation of the Earth. The link of this age to the period of terrestrial accretion is of course model dependent. According to the actual models (Wetherill, 1978) the end of accretion should not be very different to the differentiation age. However, this conclusion highlights the fact that any precise chronology is associated with the formation of the object. If our chronology is correct and if the age of the Moon is around 4.5 Ga (Wasserburg, 1987), its formation by extraction out of the Earth may have occurred in the time interval when the Earth was still accreting and the core was not completely formed. Such scenario would explain several chemical features of the Moon. Patterson s work was the keystone that clearly resolved the age of the Earth from the age of the Universe (age of the maximum nucleosynthesis) and fixed a value for the former. Since then, we have been able to distinguish between the age of meteorites and the age of the Earth and, perhaps even more important, we are able today to understand the significance of the age of the Earth. Concerning meteorite chronology we are today able to resolve the ages of condensation, accretion, differentiation, and metamorphism. In respect to the Earth we support the ideas of Safronov (1969) and Wetherill (1963, 1975, 1978) with regard to planetary body formation. This perspective, that gives us hope to better understand our past, would not have been possible without the fundamental step from Patterson.
Acknowledgments-The authors thank Eric Lewin who has contributed to the treatment of the MORB data. We thank Al. Hofmann and T. Staudacher for comments on the manuscript. G. Wetherill, N. Tatsumoto, and an anonymous reviewer made valuable suggestions on the manuscript. We further thank K. Burton for correcting and refining the English of the manuscript. This work is IPG contribution 1337. Part of it was supported by the Programme National de PlunPtolo~ir of CNRS.

Allende CAI Formation

Editorial

handling: G. Faure

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4.50 Age @a)

4.55

FIG. 10. Pb-Pb time scales for the accretion of the Earth and the meteorite parent bodies. The shaded areas underline the different time scales for the formation of the two major types of meteorite parent bodies (maximum 8 Ma) and for the end of accretion and the differentiation of the Earth (~~100 Ma). These periods are evaluated in respect to age of the Allende refractory inclusions that are considered as translating the formation of the solar system. The solid lines for ordinary chondrites and basaltic achondrites indicate the variations of Pb-Pb ages that are younger than 4.565 Ga and that are interpreted as reflecting the U-Pb record of thermal events. The dashed lines indicate the larger time span for perturbation as recorded by the Ar-Ar systematics.

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