Tektites

Tektites are very rare pieces of black, green, brown, or gray natural glass made of debris ejected from meteorite impacts. Most of them are black. Their name was given from the Greek word tēktos, meaning “melted”. Tektites can look very similar to terrestrial volcanic glass (obsidian), however they have a different composition as they have different origins: tektites are completely glassy, and they don’t have the water percentage of obsidians. One of the most reliable tests is heating them up: obsidians will become foamy, tektites won’t. Tektites, however, will be also destroyed in the process, as they will shatter very shortly after. So far, tektites with similar composition have been found across 4 major strewn fields: the Australasian, Central European, Ivory Coast, and North American.

Formation

The consensus between geoscientists and planetary scientists is that tektites are composed of fragments of Earth soil released during the formation of craters. The sediments and rocks melt, evaporate, and combine then get ejected from craters by the high velocity impact. After being ejected from the crater, the melted material of a few millimeters to a few centimeters re-enters the atmosphere, cools down and forms tektites that fell back to the ground. This theory is supported by the research done on tektites from the Australasian strewn field that had melted Jurassic sediments in their composition. However, the exact process that led to their formation is still to be confirmed: their scarcity compared to the number of known impact craters indicates that very special circumstances are required for tektites to arise from a meteorite impact.

Other theories that have been considered in regards with tektites origins are:

  • man-made objects, created by our ancestors during the smelting process. However, tektites appear to be much too old for that;
  • they have been created by natural fires (forest fires). This doesn’t explain the ablation shapes of tektites.
  • lightning. However, fulgurites (created by lightning) have different composition and different aspects.
  • material from the moon. However, their composition doesn’t include any of the known components of lunar rocks.

“To anyone who has worked with them, tektites are probably the most frustrating stones ever found on earth.” – Henry Faul, 1966.

Properties

One of the most prominent features of tektites is their color. Outwardly, most of them appear glossy-black, but inside they can be yellowish brown or even translucent. The color of black vary according to the place where they have been found, often varying between many shades. As with obsidians, tektites contain a majority of silica. However, often within tektites are small amounts of fused silica glass, produced by melting quartz crystals at very high temperatures and pressures, and this cannot be found in volcanic glass like obsidian.

Symbolism

Communication, connection. Element: storm.

Legends

From very early times, the perplexing little stones have been subjects to many legends, traditions and superstitions. More than 2000 years ago, they have been known in China as “stones of the Thunder God”. The Sanskrit name for Tektites is “tears from the Moon”. Islanders in the Java Sea called them “black magic seeds” and Tektites have been known by Tibetan monks as “the stone of Shambala”.


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