Diamond-bearing pebble proves comet collided with Earth 28 million years ago
Researchers have unveiled the first definitive proof of a comet exploding in the Earth's atmosphere 28 million years ago over what is now Egypt and, exploding and killing all life forms in its path, but also resulting in the formation of a huge amount of yellow silica glass and diamonds.
The paper, to be published in the November issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters, was conducted by a collaboration of geoscientists, physicists and astronomers, including David Block of Wits University, lead author Professor Jan Kramers of the University of Johannesburg, Dr Marco Andreoli of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, and Chris Harris of the University of Cape Town.
The silica field created by the comet, known as the Libyan Desert Glass has been used in ancient jewels, including the famous Tutankhamun’s brooch.
Evidence of the comet’s existence lies in a black pebble found years ago by an Egyptian geologist. After thorough analysis, the team of scientists determined it was the first known specimen of a comet nucleus.
"Comets always visit our skies — they're these dirty snowballs of ice mixed with dust — but never before in history has material from a comet ever been found on Earth," David Block of Wits University in Johannesburg said in a press release.
The team have named the diamond-bearing pebble “Hypatia” in honour of the first well-known female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria.
Comets contain the very secrets to unlocking the formation of our solar system, said the team, adding that the discovery gives them an “unprecedented opportunity” to study comet material first hand.
Image: An artist’s rendition of the comet exploding in Earth’s atmosphere above Egypt (By Terry Bakker)