Researchers from Australia's Curtin University have suggested that the glass found in Egyptian desert was originally formed through the natural process of a meteorite impact 29 million years ago, as the work published in the journal Geology suggests.
The yellow desert glass, which is found in Egypt’s ancient jewelry including a scarab buried beside Tutankhamun, was found mysteriously scattered across the Sahara between Egypt and Libya.
As researchers studied tiny grains of zircon detected in glass samples, they found traces of a mineral called reidite which only forms during meteorite impacts.
"It has been a topic of ongoing debate as to whether the glass formed during meteorite impact, or during an airburst. 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,” study's lead author Dr Aaron Cavosie said.
"Previous models suggested that desert glass represented a large, 100-megaton class airburst, but our results show this is not the case," Cavosie explained.
"Meteorite impacts are catastrophic events, but they are not common. Airbursts happen more frequently, but we now know not to expect a desert glass-forming event in the near future, which is cause for some comfort,” he added.