The collision of an asteroid with the planet was recreated in the laboratory

Physicists from the University of Jena and the DESY research center conducted an experiment that simulates changes

materials on the surface of the planetcollision with a large meteorite. The scientists observed changes in the mineral quartz at atomic resolution in slow motion. The experiment showed the existence of a previously unknown form of this mineral substance.

For their experiment, the researchers placedquartz particles inside a dynamic cell with a diamond anvil. This is an experimental design in which the test material is placed between two conical diamonds. The design of the device allows you to quickly change the pressure during the experiment and reach extreme values, such as inside the Earth's core or at the point of collision of an asteroid with the surface.

With a diamond anvil cellThe researchers squeezed small single crystals of quartz harder and harder, passing intense X-ray light through them to study changes in their crystal structure. At the same time, the process was carried out slowly enough to track the gradual changes.

The researchers found that at a pressure of aboutAt 180,000 atmospheres, the quartz structure suddenly transformed into a more densely packed transitional structure. In this crystal structure, quartz is compressed by a third of its volume. The authors of the work note that this transitional form leads to the formation of characteristic lines within the rocks exposed to the impact of an asteroid, which are distinguishable under a microscope.

Lamellar structure under a microscope. Image: Falko Langenhorst, Christoph Otzen (Universität Jena)

Asteroid impacts are catastrophicevents that result in the formation of huge craters, and sometimes parts of the earth's crust melt. But such traces are short-lived and are destroyed in the process of erosion. A more reliable "witness" is material. For example, quartz sand turns into glass upon collision, while the quartz grains are intersected by microscopic lines.

Although researchers have previously linked these tracesFor the analysis of collisions, it was still not clear how they are formed. The results of the new work show that the number and orientation of these lines allow us to draw conclusions about the nature of the impact. For example, they show how high the impact pressure was.

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