Research

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

A snapshot of ancient environmental conditions

The scorching heat produced by asteroid or comet impacts can melt tons of soil and rock, some of which forms glass as it cools. Some of that glass preserves bits of ancient plant material.

Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists exploring large fields of impact glass in Argentina suggest that what happened on Earth might well have happened on Mars millions of years ago. Martian impact glass could hold traces of organic compounds.