News / Science & Technology

S. African Scientists Claim Discovery of First Comet Strike

South African Scientists Claim Discovery of First Comet Strikei
X
October 21, 2013 3:00 PM
South African researchers say they have found conclusive evidence of earth's first-ever known comet strike, about 28 million years ago. The researchers say this exciting find in rural Egypt could unlock more secrets of the universe. Anita Powell reports for VOA in Johannesburg.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anita Powell
— South African researchers say they have found conclusive evidence of earth's first-ever known comet strike, about 28 million years ago. The researchers say this exciting find in rural Egypt could unlock more secrets of the universe.
 
 South African academics say the evidence they've found indicates the comet hit the earth some 28 million years ago - in a desert in western Egypt.
 
The bits of glassy black rock left at the scene - which scientists say are comet fragments - could help unlock the secrets of our universe. The academics presented their findings at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg this month.  
 
Meteors and asteroids collide with this planet fairly frequently. But a comet strike, said Professor David Block of the University of the Witwatersrand, is unique and exciting.

“Because a comet is this dirty snowball of not only rock, but rock mixed with ice.  And the point is that atoms, life-giving atoms of carbon, of oxygen, of nitrogen, of argon, of neon, of krypton, are encoded within this little chemical factory from beyond the solar system," said Block. "These are grains of cosmic dust, which existed prior to our solar system forming. So they contain unique secrets of the chemical compo [composition] of the cloud of gas and dust, which collapsed to form our sun and the planets around it.”
 
Some scientists have theorized it may have been a comet strike that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago - but there is no evidence.
 
And, said Dr. Marco Andreoli, no one has seen a comet hit and lived to tell about it because they tend to fry every living thing in their path to ashes. He said, though, the evidence of this comet strike is clear to him.
 
“We are looking at something of… an astronomical phenomenon,” he said.
 
Geoscientist Jan Kramers from the University of Johannesburg said that although the scientific community is divided on his team’s conclusions that the fragment is a comet, he himself is fairly certain.
 
“… it’s a probably a comet, because it can’t be anything else, coming from the outermost reaches in the solar system, traveling in the gravity of the sun and hitting the Earth by chance. What it did tells you something more," said Kramers. "What it did when it hit the atmosphere, it exploded.  And that is what comets do when they hit the atmosphere. And this explosion produces an incredible amount of heat, which can account for the Libyan desert glass which we found in that region.”
 
The researchers say they hope further study of this comet fragments will help them figure out the beginnings of our universe.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid