Jun 26, 2019 | Updated: 09:24 AM EDT

Mystery Origin of Yellow Glass in Egyptian Desert SOLVED!

May 23, 2019 08:39 AM EDT

Libyan Desert Glass
(Photo : H. Raab)
Libyan Desert Glass, a impact glass found in the Great Sand Sea of the Libyan-Egyptian Libyan Desert along the border. This specimen weights 22 grams and is about 55 mm wide.

When it comes to royal luxury such as jewelry, Egypt does not come short in the running. One of its most eye-catching and mysterious treasures is the yellow glass used on the pendant of King Tutankhamun himself.

The yellow glass is not unique but can be found scattered in the Egyptian desert of Sahara. It is also called the Libyan desert glass which researchers believe to have been created by a meteorite impact about 29 million years ago.

When molten material cools too quickly, the molecules are not able to settle into order and structure, much like a crystal. This naturally forms glass.

The yellow glass was used in many ancient pieces of jewelry which includes a scarab that his carved from the said material. The said piece of pectoral jewelry was buried beside Tutankhamun.

The material has tiny greenish-yellow fragments that were said to have been caused by an atmospheric airburst when the asteroid exploded, shooting particles through the atmosphere of the Earth. The theory states that the air blast has washed over the Egyptian desert which dumped vast amounts of heat into the sand which rapidly cooled and formed glass.

The tiny grains of the mineral Zircon in the samples of the yellow glass was examined by the researchers from Curtin University in Australia. The researchers found the samples from over several thousand square kilometers in Egypt's Western area.

Zircon is evidence that a high-pressure mineral, reidite, which forms only during meteorite impact, is present in the yellow glass.

Aaron Cavosie, The lead author of the study, pointed out that it has been a topic of ongoing debate as to whether the glass was formed during the meteorite impact or it could have been during an airburst which can both cause melting. However, Cavosie explained that only a meteorite impact can create shockwaves that would be able to produce high-pressure minerals.

The lead author explains that there are previous models that suggested that Libyan desert glass represented a large glass airburst, amounting to 100 Megatonnes (Mt). However, the results from the research done by Cavosie's group does not support the previous models.

Cavosie also pointed out that meteorite impacts are not common catastrophic events. On the other hand, airbursts happen more frequently.

Recent samples of yellow glass obtained by geologists were not reidite free as well.
The scientist explained that their findings could help in understanding the possible threats that are posed by potential meteorite impacts.

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