Fireball turned kilometers of the Atacama Desert into glass
(CNN) – The Atacama Desert In Chile it is used to simulate extraterrestrial environments such as Mars on Earth. Now, according to a new study, researchers believe a comet here may have erupted with sufficient intensity to form giant plates of silicate glass.
The study was published in the journal Tuesday Geography.
About 12,000 years ago, extreme heat transformed the sand dunes of Atacama into vast areas of 75-kilometer-long glass, but researchers are not sure what caused such a drastic change.
The Atacama Desert is the driest part of the earth, with incredibly low humidity and rainfall. Fractured desert glass contains small pieces of mineral commonly found in meteorites reaching the Earth.
The minerals in the mirror are matched by particles collected by NASA’s Startust Mission, which took samples from a comet called Wild 2. Researchers firmly believe that the minerals found in the Chilean desert are the only remnants of a comet such as Wild 2. Exploded in the sand and melted.
“This is the first time we have clear evidence of glass on Earth, which was created by heat radiation and wind from a fireball that exploded above the surface,” study author Pete Schultz said in a statement. Brown University and Professor of Brown Research in Earth, Ecology and Planetary Sciences. “It’s really a huge explosion to have such a severe effect on such a large area.
What are the magnificent glass fields of Atacama
Located between the Andes Mountains and the Chilean Coast Mountains, the Pamba del Tamarugal Plateau stretches east through a striking glass field with a dark green or black appearance. Although volcanic activity can produce this type of glass, there is no evidence to show that Atacama glass was created in this way.
Analysts had previously said the fire was the cause. The region was once home to wetlands derived from rivers. Some believe that if those ancient grasses had been burned in a widespread wildfire, they might have formed glass.
However, glass is more complex. On closer inspection, the pieces of glass appear to be twisted, bent, rolled, and thrown as they melt. According to the researchers, this is only possible due to wind eruptions that could unleash air competing with the hurricane.
Chemical analysis of the glass revealed that zircons and minerals decompose hot to form batilite crystals. This change only occurs when the temperature rises above 1,600 degrees Celsius, which is certainly higher than the heat caused by a fire.
Analysis also showed comet Wild 2 and minerals such as cubonite and trolite found in meteorites.
Scott Harris, co-author and planetary geologist at the Fernbank Science Center in Georgia, said in a statement, “Those minerals tell us that this material has all the traces of a comet.” That fact must be taken into account. “
The investigation continues
Researchers want to focus on dating to determine the exact age of the glass and the possible size of the comet, but their current expectation occurred when large mammals disappeared from the area 12,000 years ago.
“It’s too early to tell whether there is a causal link, but what we can say is that this event happened at the same time that we think the megapavuna has disappeared, which is puzzling,” Schultz said. “The first citizens who have now come to this area are likely to have seen this. It would have been a sight to behold.”