Tuesday, December 7

A comet created the crystal fields in the Chilean desert | Digital Trends Spanish


An investigation published in the journal Geology affirms that the explosion of a comet would have originated the great plates of silicate glass on the surface of the Atacama desert, in the north of Chile.

In the work, the researchers show that the desert glass samples contain fragments with minerals that are usually found in rocks of extraterrestrial origin.

In fact, those minerals match the composition of material returned to Earth by NASA’s Stardust mission that sampled a comet known as Wild 2.

According to the scientists, these mineral assemblages are probably the remains of an object that comes from outside our planet, such as a comet, that precipitated after the explosion that melted the sandy surface at the bottom.

“This is the first time that we have clear evidence of glass on Earth that was created by thermal radiation and winds from a fireball that exploded just above the surface,” explained Pete Schultz, a professor at Brown University.

“To have such a dramatic effect on such a large area, this was a truly massive explosion. Many of us have seen bolide fireballs streaking through the sky, but those are small dots compared to this. “

Atacama Desert. Getty Images

Quite a show

The fields of dark green or black glass lie within a corridor that stretches for about 75 kilometers.

The researchers claim that the analysis revealed sets of exotic minerals that are only found in meteorites and other alien rocks.

“Those minerals are what tell us that this object has all the markings of a comet,” added Scott Harris, a planetary geologist at the Fernbank Science Center and a co-author of the study.

“Having the same mineralogy that we saw in the Stardust samples contained in these vessels is really powerful evidence that what we are seeing is the result of a burst of cometary air.”

The team of researchers assures that more studies are needed to determine the exact ages of the glass, which would serve to know when exactly the event occurred.

For now, the tentative dating places the impact right at the moment when the large mammals disappeared from the region.

“It is too early to say whether there was a causal connection or not, but what we can say is that this event occurred around the same time as when we think the megafauna disappeared, which is intriguing,” they add.

“There is also the possibility that this was witnessed by the first inhabitants, who had just arrived in the region. It would have been quite a show ”.

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