First evidence of comet striking Earth found in Egypt

An artist’s rendition of the comet exploding in Earth’s atmosphere above Egypt 28 million years ago. (Terry Bakker)

A team of
scientists claims to have found the first-ever definitive evidence of a comet
striking Earth.

conducting a series of analyses, the researchers determined that a
black pebble discovered years ago in the Egyptian desert is a piece of a comet
nucleus — the first ever discovered.

“It’s a
typical scientific euphoria when you eliminate all other options and come to
the realization of what it must be,” study lead author Jan Kramers, of the
University of Johannesburg in South Africa, said in a statement. [Best Close Encounters of the Comet Kind]

The pebble,
which the team has named “Hypatia” in honor of the ancient female
mathematician, astronomer and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, is also
studded with diamonds, which makes sense considering its cometary origin,
researchers said.

are produced from carbon-bearing material,” Kramers said. “Normally
they form deep in the Earth, where the pressure is high, but you can also
generate very high pressure with shock. Part of the comet impacted, and the
shock of the impact produced the diamonds.”

This impact
occurred about 28 million years ago over Egypt, study team members say. The
comet exploded in the atmosphere, heating the sand below to a temperature of
3,630 degrees Fahrenheit and generating huge amounts of yellow silica glass
across 2,317 square miles of the Sahara

One piece of
this silica glass even found its way into a brooch that belonged to the famous
Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen, researchers said.

Comets have almost certainly struck the Earth
many times over the planet’s long history. But before the Hypatia pebble’s
origin was determined, tiny dust particles in the upper atmosphere and
carbon-rich dust in Antarctic ice were the only cometary material known on
Earth, researchers said.

Comets are
leftover pieces from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago,
so the new discovery could have valuable scientific applications as well as
gee-whiz appeal.

and ESA [the European Space Agency] spend billions of dollars collecting a few
micrograms of comet material and bringing it back to Earth, and now we’ve got a
radical new approach of studying this material, without spending billions of
dollars collecting it,” Kramers said.

The study
will be published in an upcoming issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Three of the co-authors will also discuss the finding Thursday, Oct. 10, during
a public lecture at the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg.

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Read more: foxnews


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