Some of Earth's oldest rocks in the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains

Some of Earth’s oldest rocks in the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa, which contain greenstone rock formations that are 3.2 to 3.6 billion years old.

According to NASA, these are some of the oldest, best-preserved, and diverse sequences of volcanic and sedimentary rock layers found anywhere on the planet. The rocks hold evidence of some of Earth’s earliest forms of life, such as microfossils and stromatolites. The Makhonjwa Mountains, also known as the Barberton Greenstone Belt or Barberton Mountain Land, is a range of small mountains and hills that covers an area of 120 by 60 kilometres, about 80% in Mpumalanga, a province of South Africa, and the remainder in neighbouring Eswatini. 

Komatiite is a rare igneous rock that was formed from ancient magmas that were hotter, more liquid, and denser than those found on Earth today. This rock is of particular interest to geologists, who debate what conditions must have allowed komatiite to form.

The Barberton Makhonjwa range is made up of small mountains and hills that range in size from 2,000 to 5,900 feet. The image also captures part of the Komati River Valley, where komatiites were first identified in 1969. 

The image was acquired on March 10, 2021 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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