Friday, October 11, 2013

Space scarab

I may have seen this amulet belonging to King Tutankhamun when I visited the traveling exhibition of his treasures in the 1970s. Little did I know that the yellow scarab at the center predates the ancient Egyptian king's 14th c. B.C. reign by 28 million years. That's when a comet hit the Sahara desert and heated the sand to such a degree that it formed silica glass and spread it over a wide area. The scarab, microscopic diamonds, and a mysterious black pebble dubbed “Hypatia” have been found by an international collaboration of geoscientists, physicists, and astronomers to be the first physical evidence left on the planet by a comet strike. Team member David Block of Wits University explains, “Comets always visit our skies – they’re these dirty snowballs of ice mixed with dust – but never before in history has material from a comet ever been found on Earth.”


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