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100-Year Mystery Solved, Yellow Glass In Egyptian Desert Caused By Meteorite Strike

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For nearly 100 years, the yellow desert glass in Egypt has been a mystery, but scientists now know where they came from. Which of the hypotheses about it turned out to be right?

Yellow Desert Glass In Egypt

The mysterious yellow glass of Egypt can be found for several thousands of square kilometers and has been a topic of debate for almost a century now. The canary yellow glass was famously used to create the scarab for King Tut’s Pectoral and was formed 29 million years ago but until now, its origins remained unknown.

Hypotheses suggest that the yellow glass was either formed due to a meteorite impact or when a near-Earth object burst in the atmosphere and rained down deposit energy, an event called an atmospheric airburst. The latter hypothesis even gained traction after a similar 2013 event in Russia where the outburst caused serious damage to property as well as injuries to humans but did not cause surface materials to melt. Does this mean this it is the more plausible hypotheses?

Meteorite Impact, Not Atmospheric Airburst

To determine which of the hypotheses are more likely, researchers studied the small grains of mineral zircon in the yellow desert glass and found evidence of a high-pressure mineral called reidite. Incidentally, reidite only forms during a meteorite impact and can only be found in impact craters, which suggests that the hypothesis involving a meteorite impact is the more plausible one.

“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,” said lead author Dr. Aaron Cavosie.

Furthermore, researchers note that to date, there are no confirmed examples of material from a class 100-Mt airburst in the geological records.

The research paper is published in the journal Geology.

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