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.
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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More