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First-ever Comet Strike Residue Found in Desert, King Tut Brooch

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October 9, 2013

A South African scientist has reported discovering definitive residue from a comet strike, the first such find ever reported.

The University of Johannesburg's Jan Kramers, lead author of the study, said that the team found that a black pebble discovered several years ago in a desert area known as Libyan Desert Glass contained amounts of silica glass and diamonds and was, in fact, left over from a comet strike 28 million years ago. The comet exploded in Earth's atmosphere, and the result was a very high heat of 3,630 degrees Fahrenheit that, combined with the impact of the comet, produced a veritable cloud of silica that spread over more than 2,300 square miles of the Sahara Desert.

The scientists came to the conclusion after performing an array of different tests, including chemical analyses, on the pebble, which they named Hypatia, after the famed female scientist-philosopher from ancient Alexandria. Once the tests confirmed the presence of diamonds, the scientists knew they had a fragment of a comet, not a meteorite. The pebble, tests show, contains 65 percent carbon, which is a much higher amount than the normal single-digit percentage that meteorites typically have.

Testing also confirmed that part of the comet-borne silica was found in a famous brooch belonging to King Tut. The brooch was found by Howard Carter's team when they opened Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. The yellow scarab at the center of the brooch is made of silica glass from "Hypatia."

Details are in the latest edition of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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