Present evidence suggests that the Earth was formed about 4,500 million years ago (i.e. 4.5 giga-years before the present, written as 4.5 GaBP), and a transient primary atmosphere formed at the same time, consisting mostly of water vapour. That condensed to form the oceans at about 3.3 GaBP, and then the present secondary atmosphere arose, initially from gases released by 'outgassing', as the more volatile materials boiled off from the heavier components of the Earth's molten interior, escaping through fissures in the embryonic

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