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The Catastrophic Comet Collision in the Atacama Desert Produced Glass from Sand in Ancient times

By: April Carson

The chemical composition of the strange glass that ended up in the Chilean Atacama desert about 12 millennia ago has been determined by an international team of geologists. The study found that these fragments are mostly composed of extraterrestrial-origin minerals. It's possible that a comet/meteor exploded over the desert, according to one hypothesis.

In the Atacama Desert, scientists discovered extraterrestrial glass

Scientists examined pieces of the enigmatic glass that intrigued scientists worldwide about ten years ago. Scientists discovered an elongated, enormous "field" of scattered glass fragments in Chile's Atacama Desert back then.

There is no way to precisely determine the number of these fragments. Previous studies have, however, shown that they vary in size and form. The biggest of them, for example, are half a meter in diameter. Some of the shards are smooth slabs while others are intricately curled.

Higher concentration of fragments

The researchers also took note of the fact that several areas along the passage have a higher concentration of shards. Nothing was known about this mysterious substance's chemical composition until recently. Geologists, on the other hand, are discussing the findings of such an analysis in the new research.

The researchers examined over 300 glass samples using an electron microscope and spectroscopy to determine their chemical composition. According to the results, the glass "does not seem to be entirely from Earth." In other words, extraterrestrial glass may be found in the Atacama Desert.

The glass's zircon minerals disintegrated as a result of outside influence, according to the authors. As a consequence, baddeleyite crystals were produced - a mineral that can only form at extremely high temperatures (above 1670 degrees Celsius).

Materials that are rare on Earth

Furthermore, it was discovered that the pieces include thousands of grains of foreign minerals that are quite uncommon on Earth. Even then, they were delivered to our planet by asteroids. Scientists have identified extraterrestrial cubanite in glass - a mineral with a similar chemical composition had been found in Stardust samples from comet Wild 2, collected in 2004 by NASA's space probe.

"This is the first time we have found this material in a terrestrial crater", says Curdt. "It supports models for comet impacts on Earth."

According to scientists, the Chilean blast was of cosmic origin and had happened about 7000 years ago, at least 300 years before humans learned how to make glass. This means that ancient people could not have used the material for their needs.

The new research does not offer an explanation for how the extraterrestrial glass got into the Atacama Desert. According to a previous hypothesis, this might be due to a huge meteor explosion in the atmosphere. However, according to the authors of the current study, chunks of meteorite glass were previously discovered throughout our planet's deserts, including in Africa's Sahara and in Australia's Great Sandy Desert.

In the case of the Chilean desert, scientists have no answer yet. "We can only say with certainty that this is a piece of extraterrestrial glass," said study coauthor Dr. Victor Campa from the Universidad de Santiago de Chile . "But we cannot confirm that it is meteoritic.

However, the researchers of this study also offered one speculation. They noted that the glass's age, which is around 12 thousand years old, corresponds to that of South America's partial megafaunal extinction. This is due to climate change, according on biologists.

Climate changes in the Atacama desert

Based on these facts, geologists believed that the Atacama was a humid region with thick woods during that time. Its fragments might fall into the forests and set them on fire, taking their present form under the influence of the intense heat after the meteor's explosion. This idea does not explain why no glass has gone beneath the surface for millennia, though.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav





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