A mysterious yellow glass crystal discovered in the Libyan desert in 1933 is starting to reveal a little. Photo/Daily Mail
TRIPOLI – Mysterious yellow glass crystals discovered in the Libyan desert in 1933 are starting to reveal a little. Scientists estimate this strange type of glass came from a meteorite that fell on Earth.
The mysterious yellow glass crystal was discovered in the Great Sand Sea Desert which stretches over an area of 72,000 square kilometers connecting Egypt and Libya. If you are in certain parts of the desert in southeastern Libya and southwest Egypt, you will see yellow glass shards scattered across the sandy landscape.
These yellow glass crystals were first described in a scientific paper in 1933 and are known as Libyan desert glass. Mineral collectors appreciate their beauty, rarity, and mystery.
Now, thanks to advanced microscope technology, a number of scientists from universities and science centers in Germany, Egypt and Morocco have identified the glass crystals as coming from meteorite impacts.
In 1996, scientists determined that the glass was nearly 29 million years old. Later research showed that the source material consisted of quartz grains, coated with a mixture of clay minerals and iron and titanium oxides.
This latter finding raises more questions, as the proposed age is older than matched source material in the relevant region of the Great Sand Sea desert. Simply put: the source material did not exist at that location 29 million years ago.
For our recent research, the co-authors obtained two pieces of glass from local residents who collected them in the Al Jaouf region of southeastern Libya. Then the samples were studied with sophisticated transmission electron microscope (TEM) techniques, making it possible to see tiny particles of material, 20,000 times smaller than the thickness of a sheet of paper.
Using this super high magnification technique, small minerals were discovered in this glass, various types of zirconium oxide (ZrO2). Minerals are composed of chemical elements, whose atoms form regular three-dimensional packages.