- (Photo: NASA/File)
There are claims coming from Egypt that a team of scientists found evidence of a comet strike that took place roughly 30 million years ago.
Researchers conducted tests on samples of suspected meteorites that had been collected over the years in the region. The tests revealed that the fragments that were recovered in the Egyptian desert are a piece of a comet nucleus.
A study containing the researcher's findings will be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
"It's a typical scientific euphoria when you eliminate all other options and come to the realization of what it must be," study lead author Jan Kramers, of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, said in a statement.
The small fragment has been named "Hypatia" after the famed female Hypatia of Alexandria.
It is estimated that the strike occurred about 28 million years ago over Egypt, researchers say. The comet exploded high up in the atmosphere sending debris over a large area. Diamonds were observed in the fragments, meaning high pressure was present during impact.
"Diamonds are produced from carbon-bearing material," Kramers said. "Normally they form deep in the Earth, where the pressure is high, but you can also generate very high pressure with shock. Part of the comet impacted, and the shock of the impact produced the diamonds."
Comets are thought to have struck earth previously, but no physical samples have been found on the surface thus far. It was widely held that tiny dust particles in the upper atmosphere and dust trapped in Antarctic ice were the only places comet material existed on Earth. Comets are made up of gas and rock and are left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago, scientists believe.
"NASA and ESA [the European Space Agency] spend billions of dollars collecting a few micrograms of comet material and bringing it back to Earth, and now we've got a radical new approach of studying this material, without spending billions of dollars collecting it," Kramers said.