Skip to main content

What Are Tektites?

darwin tektite

http://wp-isuqzicqsb.pairsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/daily-asteroid-narrow.jpghttps://dev.aerolite.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/darwin-15-8-i-1024×683.jpg

WHAT ARE TEKTITES?

The idea that continents on Earth today had once constituted a “supercontinent” was prevalent in geologic studies. Pangea was the supercontinent that existed in the late Paleozoic era and was centered on the Equator, surrounded by a vast “superocean” called Panthalassa. Scientists estimate that Pangea was assembled approximately 335 million years ago and began breaking apart about 175 million years ago.

Further studies posit that before Pangea, another supercontinent existed in the Neoproterozoic era, about 550 million years ago, called Gondwana. According to some theories, Gondwana and Euramerica (another continent), merged to form Pangea. The supercontinent was named by Austrian scientist Eduard Suess, who proposed its existence in 1861. Suess’s son, Franz Eduard Suess, walked a similar path to his father’s and would go on to study geology. The younger Suess would coin a term familiar to meteorite collectors and those studying the metaphysical properties of minerals: tektite.

The word “tektite” comes from the Greek word for “molten.” Tektites come in a vast array of shapes and sizes. Moldavites, for example, are a gem-like green while Libyan Desert Glass pieces are honey-colored. Tektites form in a manner similar to terrestrial volcanic glasses, obsidians; they’re ejected during meteorite impacts. However, unlike volcanic glasses, tektites contain virtually no water, and their silica and isotope composition are quite different from obsidians. They also contain bands or particles of lechatelierite, a mineraloid that forms from quartz at very high temperatures. Lechatelierite is not found in obsidians and is common to tektites.

Tektites are traditionally divided into four groups: microtektites, which are less than 1 mm; splash-form tektites, considered the most “normal”; aerodynamically shaped tektites; and layered tektites. Splash-form tektites are shaped like spheres, teardrops, and other shapes you might expect something molten that solidified to take. Aerodynamically shaped tektites acquire their peculiar shape when they re-enter our atmosphere, like iron meteorites. Layered tektites are usually larger and have distinct blocky, chunky appearances and a “layered” structure.

The most widely accepted theory to explain the origin of tektites is that they came from terrestrial material that was ejected during a meteorite impact event. The debris either melted or vaporized, or both – the exact process they undergo is still poorly understood – and cooled as they fell back to Earth. This theory is supported by mineral inclusions of quartz, zircon, chromite, etc. in tektites and the fact that some tektites can be tied to an impact crater by their age and isotopic composition. However, some scientists debate this origin theory and believe tektites could have come from the Moon, an idea supported by Franz E. Suess.

Such explanations posit that tektites formed from volcanic activity on the Moon, which ejected the glasses into outer space, later landing on Earth. Scientists who support this theory cite tektites’ rare-earth and isotopic composition, physical properties, and other characteristics. There are numerous problems with the extraterrestrial origin theory of tektites, however, and most scientists agree that the characteristics displayed by tektites strongly suggest that they derived from terrestrial rocks. Even still, tektites are a major area of interest for those with an academic interest in meteorites, avid and amateur collectors, and even those interested in their metaphysical qualities.

Darwin Glass, Libyan Desert Glass, Moldavite, and Indochinites are some of the most alluring tektites, and we have several specimens available for purchase on our website. Shop here: dev.aerolite.org/shop/our-impactites/

⋆ ✴ ⋆ ✴ ⋆ ✴ ⋆

<- Return to blog homepage

FOLLOW US

RECENT BLOG POSTS

Libyan Desert Glass

libyan desert glass

http://wp-isuqzicqsb.pairsite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/daily-asteroid-narrow.jpghttps://dev.aerolite.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/LibyanDesertGlass_48.8g_3-1024×768.jpg

Libyan Desert Glass

Libyan Desert Glass (LDG) are mysterious, honey-colored glass fragments that lie on the majestic sand dunes in western Egypt. The region was discovered in 1932 and is relatively inaccessible to human beings. Despite the challenges presented by the jagged desert landscape, the area has seen at least 10 expeditions since 1932.

It’s hard to say when, exactly, human beings discovered Libyan Desert Glass; a jewel-encrusted breastplate recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb boasts a beautiful scarab, carved from golden Libyan Desert Glass.

The origin of these glasses was, for a long time, considered a mystery; scientists estimated that they formed approximately 29 million years ago and there were two main formation hypotheses to explain their existence. One was that a massive meteorite impact caused the silica in the sand to melt and another pointed to melting by a large atmospheric airburst, which occurs when meteors explode in the atmosphere.

Research on the origin of these glasses is difficult because little remains of whatever it was that caused the melting in the first place. However, scientists have found evidence of a mineral called reidite, which only forms during a meteorite impact. More importantly, this mineral does not form during airbursts. Zircon grains, which are commonly found on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and various meteorites, were found in LDG specimens. These grains, smaller than the width of a single human hair, are what preserve evidence of former reidite.

The composition of LDG is rather astonishing; it’s almost completely pure silica. In an article titled “The Riddle of the Sands,” Giles Wright says that it’s the purest natural silica glass ever found. Some pieces of LDG display small, opaque, spherical inclusions of a silica polymorph called cristobalite.  Its presence in these curious glasses indicates that at one time, the source rock had been heated to temperatures of at least 2822°F (1550°C). Other inclusions have been found in LDG, and scientists study these to attempt to piece together how, exactly, the glasses formed and under what conditions.

Libyan Desert Glass is now difficult to obtain, due to the inaccessibility of the region where they are found and restrictions imposed by the Egyptian government that, in most cases, prohibit the removal of the material from the site. Aerolite Meteorites is fortunate enough to have pieces of the mystical glasses in stock, obtained legally, that display fascinating inclusions, shapes formed by years have the wind and sand swept over them, and in rare cases, marvelous translucency. View our available catalog here.

⋆ ✴ ⋆ ✴ ⋆ ✴ ⋆

<- Return to blog homepage

FOLLOW US

RECENT BLOG POSTS