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100-yr-old mystery of Egyptian desert glass solved

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

Glass found in the was created by a impact rather than atmospheric airburst, say scientists, unravelling a nearly 100-year-old mystery.

The findings, published in the journal Geology, have implications for understanding the threat posed by asteroids.

Researchers from in Australia examined tiny grains of the mineral zircon in samples of glass, which formed 29 million years ago and is found over several thousand square kilometres in western

Nearly pure silica, the canary yellow glass was famously used to make a scarab that is part of Tut's Pectoral.

Aaron Cavosie, from Curtin University, said zircons in the glass preserved evidence of the former presence of a high-pressure mineral named reidite, which only forms during a impact.

"It has been a topic of ongoing debate as to whether the glass formed during impact, or during an airburst, which happens when asteroids called Near Earth Objects explode and deposit in the Earth's atmosphere," Cavosie said.

"Both meteorite impacts and airbursts can cause melting, however, only meteorite impacts create shock waves that form high-pressure minerals, so finding evidence of former reidite confirms it was created as the result of a meteorite impact," he said.

Cavosie said the idea that the glass may have formed during a large atmospheric airburst gained popularity after a dramatic airburst over in 2013, which caused extensive property damage and injury to humans but did not cause surface materials to melt.

"Previous models suggested that glass represented a large, 100-megatonnes (Mt) class airburst, but our results show this is not the case," Cavosie said.

"Meteorite impacts are catastrophic events, but they are not common.

"Airbursts happen more frequently, but we now know not to expect a glass-forming event in the near future, which is cause for some comfort," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, May 16 2019. 12:11 IST