In the western part of Egypt lies the Great Sand Sea which covers a whopping 28,000 square miles and spills into eastern Libya. One region of this vast desert is littered with yellow glass, whose origins many scientists believe to be otherworldly. While investigating this glass field, small stones containing diamonds were discovered that challenge all preconceived notions about the formation of our solar system.
In 1996, Dr. Aly A. Barakat was exploring an area of the Great Sand Sea that is abundant in desert glass. Known as the Libyan Desert Glass Strewn Field, this 2,500 square mile region is covered in pieces of yellow glass that perplexes researchers. It is very similar to Trinitite, the glass formed in the New Mexico desert underneath the first atomic bomb explosion that was nicknamed “Operation Trinity.”
This glass was very important to the ancient Egyptians, as evidenced by its use in jewelry that adorned the mummies of the Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun.
Barakat’s 1996 exploration collected a few pieces of seemingly unspectacular stones that were surrounded by this mysterious yellow glass. These stones have been named after Hypatia, Hypatia was a famous female astronomer and mathematician in Alexandria, Egypt during the 4th and 5th centuries AD. Upon further analysis of the noble gas and nitrogen isotopes, it was announced in 2013 that these stones were extraterrestrial in origin. This was followed by a 2015 announcement stating that the Hypatia stones were not from any known comet or meteor impact.
What really made the scientists sit up and take notice was the revelation that the stones were almost pure carbon with very little silica, the opposite of what is observed in every other meteor or comet fragment analyzed to date. Furthermore, the shock diamonds have unusual nitrogen isotope ratios unlike those found on earth, leading researchers to believe they were formed before the mysterious impactor entered our atmosphere.
“We can think of the badly mixed dough of a fruit cake representing the bulk of the Hypatia pebble, what we called two mixed ‘matrices’ in geology terms,” said lead researcher Jan Kramers. “The glace cherries and nuts in the cake represent the mineral grains found in Hypatia ‘inclusions’. And the flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake represent the ‘secondary materials’ we found in the fractures in Hypatia, which are from Earth.”
This baking analogy gets even stranger due to the presence of a few exceedingly rare components. Pure metallic aluminum was found, aluminum is never found in this form on the earth and is thought to be extremely rare in our solar system. An even more astounding discovery was an alloy of phosphorus and nickel that contains no iron, this has never been observed before.
Kramers went on to say, “Even more unusual, the matrix contains a high amount of very specific carbon compounds, called polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a major component of interstellar dust, which existed even before our solar system was formed. Interstellar dust is also found in comets and meteorites that have not been heated up for a prolonged period in their history.”
The South African professor believes the data is telling him that the formation process must have happened very far from the warmth of a star like our sun. These are regions of our solar system that currently we know very little about.
“Hypatia was formed in a cold environment, probably at temperatures below that of liquid nitrogen on Earth. In our solar system, it would have been way further out than the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where most meteorites come from. Comets come mainly from the Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune and about 40 times as far away from the sun as we are. Some come from the Oort Cloud, even further out. We know very little about the chemical compositions of space objects out there. So our next question will dig further into where Hypatia came from,” Kramer concluded.
What if this yellow glass was formed by Hypatia exploding with the force of an atomic bomb leaving only tiny pieces of itself as clues for future researchers, in that case, where is the crater? It turns out that one potential candidate for the crater created from the event that produced all of this nuclear glass, was too big to be seen except from space.
It wasn’t until 2007 when Egyptian space scientist Farouk El-Baz and geomorphologist Eman Goneim analyzed data collected by orbiting satellites that they discovered what they believe to be a 19-mile diameter crater that could very well explain the origins of the desert glass and Hypatia stone fragments. They named the formation they discovered the Kebira Crater, but due to its remote location, there has been little additional research done.
Could the dagger made from a meteorite found in King Tut’s tomb be related to the Hypatia stones?