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Tektite


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Tektites

Tektites are small, glassy pebble-like objects that form during a meteorite impact. Their name comes from the Greek word "tektos", meaning molten. They represent droplets of molten target rock that are ejected up into the Earth's atmosphere and then fall back to the surface several hundred kilometers away from where the impact took place. They often acquire aerodynamic shapes flying through the atmosphere (left).

The first written reference to tektites was about 1050 years ago, by Liu Sun in China, who gave them a name that meant 'Inkstone of the Thundergod'.

Tektites are often located in "strewn fields" (right), areas where tektites with similar chemical and physical properties are found. The four main strewn fields in the world are the central European (linked to the Ries crater in Germany), Ivory Coast (linked to the Bosumtwi crater in Ghana, West Africa), North American (linked to the Chesapeake crater, North America) and Australasian (source crater still unknown, although a large crater in Western Cambodia, Lake Tonle Sap, has been proposed).

Tektites do not contain any, or almost no trace of water. They can be mistaken for obsidian or pitchstone (black volcanic glasses), but will produce some water upon strong heating. Their density is similar to, or a little lighter than quartz beach sand.

Example of tektites in our Impact Rock Kits. Note: U.S.A. penny for scale.
Example of tektites in our Impact Rock Kits. Note: U.S.A. penny
for scale.

Photo: F. Chuang, Planetary Science Institute
Location:
Australasian region in the southwestern Pacific

Example of moldavites in our Impact Rock Kits. Note: circular object is U.S.A. penny for scale.
Example of moldavites in our Impact Rock Kits. Note: circular object is U.S.A. penny for scale.
Photo: F. Chuang, Planetary Science Institute
Location:
European region near the Ries impact structure

AUSTRALASIAN TEKTITES

The Australasian strewnfield is the largest and geologically youngest of the tektite strewn fields and the only one thus far with no known impact crater associated with it. The tektites are generally very dark in color, essentially black for the most part (see photo above). Thin edges or broken parts will have a yellow or brown color when examined with back lighting. They have a wide range of forms such as teardrops, dumbbells, spheres, rods, discs and other irregular shapes.

The Australasian strewnfield covers more than 10% of the Earth's surface, and is expected to be associated with a young, extremely large crater that has yet to be identified with certainty. The age of these tektites is 0.7 million years old, possibly younger. Because the strewnfield is so large, they have been classified into sub-groups according to their location: Australites (from Australia), Indochinites (from Indochina), Chinites (from China). They are all predominantly black in color.

MOLDAVITES

Moldavites are an unusual type of tektite with a beautiful translucent green clarity. The moldavites are tektites derived from the Ries impact structure in Germany. Moldavite is a special term in German and means "Vltava River Stone". "Moldau" is the German name for the Czech river Vltava.

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