A not credible message about the discovery of extra-terrestrial material in the Egyptian desert
 (Libyen Desert Glass area)

Norbert Brügge, Germany

Update: 01.02.2018

The stone has been found by Dr. Aly A. Barakat of the Geological Survey of Egypt. It was found accidentally in December 1996, during the work of the Egyptian/Italian expedition, in the area of the Libyan Desert Glass. The specimen is of a shiny grey-black colour and irregular shape. It measures roughly 3.5 x 3.2 x 2.1 cm and weights about 30 grams. Fractures are common feature in this specimen. Sand and soil from the area invaded the material through these fractures. Thin coating of brownish-red coloration of ferruginous and carbonate materials has been observed on the outer surface of the specimen and through the fractures. The material is foliated and brittle and easily splits when struck. The fresh surfaces show tiny bright spots. The material appears to be assembled of tiny angular black fragments of various sizes.

Published message (Abstract)

Unique chemistry of a diamond-bearing pebble from the Libyan Desert Glass strewnfield, SW Egypt; Evidence for a shocked comet fragment

Jan D. Kramers et al. -- Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2013), Volume 382, Pages 21–31

Barakat's original piece

Studied fragment

"We have studied a small, very unusual stone, here named “Hypatia”, found in the area of southwest Egypt where an extreme surface heating event produced the Libyan Desert Glass 28.5 million years ago. It is angular, black, shiny, extremely hard and intensely fractured. We report on exploratory work including X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with EDS analysis, deuteron nuclear reaction analysis, C-isotope and noble gas analyses. Carbon is the dominant element in Hypatia, with heterogeneous O/C and N/C ratios ranging from 0.3 to 0.5 and from 0.007 to 0.02, respectively. The major cations of silicates add up to less than 5%. The stone consists chiefly of apparently amorphous, but very hard carbonaceous matter, in which patches of sub-μm diamonds occur. δ13C values (ca. 0‰) exclude an origin from shocked terrestrial coal or any variety of terrestrial diamond. They are also higher than the values for carbonaceous chondrites but fall within the wide range for interplanetary dust particles and comet 81P/Wild2 dust. In step heating, 40Ar/36Ar ratios vary from 40 to the air value (298), interpreted as a variable mixture of extraterrestrial and atmospheric Ar. Isotope data of Ne, Kr and Xe reveal the exotic noble gas components G and P3 that are normally hosted in presolar SiC and nanodiamonds, while the most common trapped noble gas component of chondritic meteorites, Q, appears to be absent. An origin remote from the asteroid belt can account for these features."

"We propose that the Hypatia stone is a remnant of a cometary nucleus fragment that impacted after incorporating gases from the atmosphere. Its co-occurrence with Libyan Desert Glass suggests that this fragment could have been part of a bolide that broke up and exploded in the airburst that formed the Glass. Its extraordinary preservation would be due to its shock-transformation into a weathering-resistant assemblage."

The international reactions to the statements in the article of the South African scientists are euphoric. The investigated piece (it is a dark stone fragment of 30 gram, and was found in 1996 by the Egyptian geologist Dr. Aly A. Barakat in the area of the silica glass) should be cometary material. This message in a short time has already been inflationary widespread. Because this euphoria I can not empathize.
In the entire area exist no evidences of exo-terrestrial events. The numerous crater-like structures which are visible in this region (including the Libyan crater Oasis, BP and Arkenu) belong to a large area with subvolcanic inventory from this period before 28.5 million years. Included is the strewn field with the Libyan Desert Glass. The Libyan Desert Glass belongs as much to the inventory of this subvolcanic events such as other specials (Jasper Mountain, Qaret-el-Hanash).
The emergence of the desert glass, with an estimated total mass of about 1400 tons, is definitely NOT caused by an airburst or an impact, but is an exceptional "volcanic" glass. For the melting of sand masses at the surface by an airburst, there were no conditions in the Oligocene period. The land surface was a rocky ablation area. A sandy desert did not exist.
In contrast to the obsidian is the desert glass not a conventional volcanic glass because it contains 96-99% SiO2. It must be presumed that it before 28.5 million years as a pure glass melt along a deep fault in the earth's crust flowed. Corresponding flowing structures are visible in the glass. In the glass were identified fourteen nano-sized crystalline, also polymorphs of diamond and graphite.
In this context also should be classified the analyzed "shocked comet fragment". If we follow the results of the investigation, then this material could be from the deep and hidden interior of the earth and ascented along a fault that is significant in this region. The site (
25°20'N / 25°29'E) of "Hypatia" is located like the LDG in the immediate vicinity of the Uweinat-Howar Uplift fault, active since the Paleozoic in the area of an Archean cratonal crust.

The arguments for cometary origin of "Hypatia"are not convincing, because ultimately our planet was created by aggregation of exo-terrestrial material (even cometary material). What we know about the Earth's interior, is not enough. Surprises are always possible. Predestined seems to be the area in the southwestern Egyptian desert. It has been influenced since the Paleozoic by tectonic movements over a magmatic "hotspot" that was reactivated in the Tertiary peroid. The findings of "sub-micrometer diamonds in the amorphous, carbon-dominated matrix" are a clear indication for the origin of this material from the Earth mantel.

Meanwhile, there are constantly new finds of strange compositions, which give us clear evidence of the origin of Libyan Desert Glass, carbon input and diamonds.

About the Occurrence of micron-sized diamonds in the mullite-magnetite-silica glass boulders in the Gilf Kebir area of western Egypt
M.A.G. Andreoli -- School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa; Unpublished document (2017)

"Dark grey mullite-magnetite-glass melt rock (right); numerous diamonds were found in the polished, light sandy grey slab (bottom left) but found absent in the core of the dark, glassy patch." The location is southeast of the Silica area.

Petrographic and geochemical study of an anomalous melt rock from the Gilf Kebir plateau, close to the Libyan Desert Glass area, Egypt
L. Ferrière, B. Devouard, S. Goderis, P. Vincent, D. Bernon, R. Lorillard, and J. M. Saul.
72nd Annual Meteoritical Society Meeting (2009) 5384.pdf

Thanks to John M. Saul for sending the LPI 48 presentation and coordinates of the finds to me: 23°48'N / 26°11.5'E

"Four of the authors collected unusual samples from a meter-sized boulder found among tabular formations of sandstone in the north of the Gilf Kebir plateau, about 160 km SSE of the Libyan desert glass (LDG) area.
The rock is dark gray in color, very compact (i.e., no vesicles), and strongly magnetic. Whole rock analyses are as follow (in wt%): SiO2 40.5; Al2O3 30.8, Fe2O3 22.7, TiO2 4.4, with remarkably low alkali (Na2O+K2O = 0.1 wt%) and CaO (0.1 wt%) contents. In thin section, the rock displays a magmatic aphanitic-microlitic texture with microlites of mullite (Al4.2Fe3+0.2Si1.6O9.8), an Fe-rich spinel close to magnetite, and an Fe-Ti oxide, in a mesostasis of nearly pure Silica. Tridymite has been identified in the mesostasis, as well as in segregation veinlets. Rounded, relict quartz grains also occur and are surrounded by tridymite. Platinum group element (PGE) concentrations in the melt rock are within the range of the average continental crust with iridium as an exception, slightly more elevated. These PGE patterns are similar to those measured for LDG."


What's new about "Hypatia"since 2013
New investigations on "Hypatia" (
abstract below) have confirmed the exceptionality of the stone but have in fact not brought the decoding of its origin. The latest results are opening up even bigger questions.
Even more unusual, the matrix contains a high amount of very specific carbon compounds, called polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Most (but not all) of the PAH in the matrix has been transformed into diamonds smaller than one micrometer. Analyzed the mineral grains in the inclusions (represented as nests), a number of most surprising chemical elements showed up. Aluminum occurs in pure metallic form, on its own, not in a chemical compound with other elements. It was also found silver iodine phosphide and moissanite (silicon carbide) grains, again in highly unexpected forms. There are also grains of a compound consisting of mainly nickel and phosphorus, with very little iron; a mineral composition, never observed before on Earth or in meteorites.

Petrography of the carbonaceous, diamond-bearing stone “Hypatia” from southwest Egypt: A contribution to the debate on its origin
Georgy A. Belyanin, Jan D. Kramers, Marco A.G. Andreoli and others -- Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 223, 15 February 2018, Pages 462-492

The stone named “Hypatia” found in the Libyan Desert Glass area of southwest Egypt is carbon-dominated and rich in microdiamonds. Previous noble gas and nitrogen isotope studies suggest an extraterrestrial origin. We report on a reconnaissance study of the carbonaceous matrix of this stone and the phases enclosed in it. This focused on areas not affected by numerous transecting fractures mostly filled with secondary minerals. The work employed scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy-dispersive (EDS) and wavelength-dispersive (WDS) electron microprobe (EMPA) analysis, Proton Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) spectrometry and micro-Raman spectroscopy. We found that carbonaceous matrices of two types occur irregularly intermingled on the 50–500 μm scale: Matrix-1, consisting of almost pure carbonaceous matter, and Matrix-2, containing Fe, Ni, P and S at abundances analyzable by microprobe. Matrix-2 contains the following phases as inclusions: (i) (Fe,Ni) sulphide occurring in cloud-like concentrations of sub-μm grains, in domains of the matrix that are enriched in Fe and S. These domains have (Fe + Ni)/S (atomic) = 1.51 ± 0.24 and Ni/Fe = 0.086 ± 0.061 (both 1SD); (ii) grains up to 5 μm in size of moissanite (SiC); (iii) Ni-phosphide compound grains up to 60 μm across that appear cryptocrystalline or amorphous and have (Ni + Fe)/P (atomic) = 5.6. ± 1.7 and Ni/Fe = 74 ± 29 (both 1SD), where both these ratios are much higher than any known Ni-phosphide minerals; (iv) rare grains (observed only once) of graphite, metallic Al, Fe and Ag, and a phase consisting of Ag, P and I. In Matrix-2, Raman spectroscopy shows a prominent narrow diamond band at 1340 cm−1. In Matrix-1 the D and G bands of disordered carbon are dominant, but a minor diamond band is ubiquitous, accounting for the uniform hardness of the material. The D and G bands have average full width at half maximum (FWHM) values of 295 ± 19 and 115 ± 19 cm−1, respectively, and the D/G intensity ratio is 0.75 ± 0.09 (both 1SD). These values are similar to those of the most primitive solar system carbonaceous matter. The diamond phase is considered to be a product of shock. The (Fe, Ni) sulphide phase is probably pyrrhotite and a shock origin is likewise proposed for it. Moissanite is frequently associated with the Ni-phosphide phase, and a presolar origin for both is suggested. The lack of recrystallization of the Ni-phosphide phase suggests that the "Hypatia" stone did not experience long-lasting thermal metamorphism, in accord with the Raman D-G band characteristics.

Examined small fragments of "Hypatia"

Polymetallic and carbonaceous debris in paleosol from the Libyan Desert Glass strewn field, SW Egypt: Evidence of a cometary impact.
M. A. G. Andreoli, & M. Di Martino et al. -- Lunar and Planetary Science XLVIII (2017), 1045.pdf

An expedition in November 2011 to the find area of "Hypatia" failed to recover additional hand specimens of "Hypatia" material, but samples of pedogenic (Cenozoic) pebbly deposits. One of these samples was collected 3.8 km SSW of the Hypatia sampling site.
After fractional separations of the sample was identified evidence of hard amorphous carbon and submicron diamonds as well as unusual metallic mineral grains, all those found in the "Hypatia" stone.
The unusual metallic grains and carbonaceous particles tentatively grouped into 4 types
Type I grains and spherules range from 10-20 μm up to 130 μm. SEM-EDX data indicate that the smaller spherules are metallic with a wide compositional range comprising Ti, Ag, Al, and Si in varying porportions, and Ca, O, Na, Mg and S as variable, minor constituents. The largest spherules are pale green and vitreous and consist entirely of P, Si with no detectable oxygen.
Type II grains are much larger (length: 60 μm to 1.2 mm) and consist of
a) sintered aggregates of Pb metal particles
b) strongly sintered clusters of α-Ti (+1.0 at.% Al) subgrains
c) more brittle aggregates of seemingly submicron, Sn-Ca alloy particles.
The Ti metal grains in places host clusters of quenched gas bubbles, blobs of Ti alu-minide, veinlets of non-stoichiometric Ti nitride, Al oxycarbonitride, and particles of Zr, Ag, and Zn. A distinctive feature of the Type II grains is their localized coating by (C, O bearing) carbonaceous films and filaments up to 300 μm in length. Although these resemble fungal hyphae and tendrils in SEM images, Raman spectra prove that they comprise partly graphitized kerogen.
Type III grains are shard-like in shape and occur either as partly oxidized branching (70 μm x 50 μm) Al particles decorated by μm-size Bi granules, or as lace-textured Ti particles partly enveloped by Type II grains. Petrographic textural analysis of multiple 3-D sections of the shard indicate that the Type II (and perhaps Type I) grains were derived from the partial to complete melting of the Type III shards.
Type IV grains are morphologically and compositionally diverse, with common characteristics being Carbon as the major constituent. Moissanite (SiC) grains were the first to be positively identified from petrography and Raman spectra. Other grains display a range of textures, including one resembling a honeycomb with N as second major constituent and minor, varying amounts of S and Cl. The Raman spectra of these N-rich grains show faint, indistinct D and G bands but distinctive peaks in the 3000 cm-1 region, indicative of C:H bonds.
Comment: It seems that in the sediment studied the weathering products of a "Hypatia" rock.

PIXE micro-mapping of minor elements in "Hypatia", a diamond bearing carbonaceous stone from the Libyan Desert Glass area, Egypt: Inheritance from a cold molecular cloud?
M. A.G. Andreoli et al.-- Article in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B, Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms (2015)
Publisher: Elsevier; DOI: 10.1016/j.nimb.2015.09.008

Matter originating from space, particularly if it represents rare meteorite samples, is ideally suited to be studied by Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) as this analytical technique covers a broad range of trace elements and is per se non-destructive. We describe and interpret a set of micro-PIXE elemental maps obtained on two minute (weighing about 25 and 150 mg), highly polished fragments taken from "Hypatia", a controversial, diamond-bearing carbonaceous pebble from the SW Egyptian desert. PIXE data show that "Hypatia" is chemically heterogeneous, with significant amounts of primordial S, Cl, P and at least 10 elements with Z > 21 (Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Os, Ir) locally attaining concentrations above 500 ppm. Si, Al, Ca, K, O also occur, but are predominantly confined to cracks and likely represent contamination from the desert environment. Unusual in the stone is poor correlation between elements within the chalcophile (S vs. Cu, Zn) and siderophile (i.e.: Fe vs. Ni, Ir, Os) groups, whereas other siderophiles (Mn, Mo and the Platinum group elements (PGEs)) mimic the distribution of lithophile elements such as Cr and V. Worthy of mention is also the presence of a globular domain (Ø S 120 lm) that is C and metals-depleted, yet Cl (P)-enriched (>3 wt.% and 0.15 wt.% respectively). While the host of the Cl remains undetermined, this chemical unit is enclosed within a broader domain that is similarly C-poor, yet Cr–Ir rich (up to 1.2 and 0.3 wt.% respectively). Our data suggest that the pebble consists of shock-compacted, primitive carbonaceous material enriched in cold, pre-solar dust.

A comprehensive study of noble gases and nitrogen in "Hypatia", a diamond-rich pebble from SW Egypt
G. Avice et al. -- Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2015), Volume 432, Pages 243–253

In 1996 a very unusual ~30 g sized pebble was found in the Libyan Desert Glass strewn field where abundant fragments of impact-related silica-rich glass are found. This brittle black stone consists of ~70 wt. % carbon, and has a hardness comparable to diamond, reminiscent of carbonados. These authors performed an exploratory analytical study on "Hypatia", including XRD, SEM, Raman spectroscopy, TEM, and analyses of C and noble gas isotopes motivated by the fact that this stone was found in the area of the Libyan Desert Glass (LDG). Noble gas isotope analysis is central to the study of meteorites because these rocks formed from multiple components with distinct noble gas isotopic signatures that help to constrain their origin and evolution. Among these components, the so-called Q phase dominates the budget of heavy noble gases (Ar, Kr Xe) in chondrites originating from the asteroid belt.
 Kramers et al. (2013) concluded that Hypatia is extra-terrestrial, based on 40Ar/36Ar ratios as low as about 40. They noted that O/C ratios (0.19 - 0.51) in Hypatia are higher than in chondritic Insoluble Organic Matter (IOM). In addition, they reported that the trapped Ne, Kr, and Xe in "Hypatia" indicate the occurrence of the nucleosynthetic P3 and G components of presolar origin known from meteorites (Ott, 2014), while the Q (and HL) components ubiquitous in chondrites were absent in "Hypatia". The combined evidence led them to conclude that "Hypatia" did not originate in the asteroid belt where chondrites likely formed. They suggested instead that it formed in a more external region of the solar accretion disk, such as the Kuiper Belt, where presolar components might be more abundant, i.e., that "Hypatia" could be of cometary origin. They further proposed that the airburst of the parent comet of "Hypatia" resulted in the formation of the Libyan Desert Glass.
In this work we extend the study by Kramers et al. (2013) with isotopic analyses of all five noble gases in several mg-sized fragments of "Hypatia" in two different laboratories (CRPG Nancy, France and ETH Zürich, Switzerland) and with a nitrogen isotope investigation performed both at CRPG (Nancy) and IPG-Paris. We also describe results from X-ray diffraction (XRD) experiments and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) observations performed at the University of Jena (Germany). An attempt to determine the oxygen isotopic composition in "Hypatia" by the Nancy Cameca 1280 ion probe failed because of the reduced size of oxygen-bearing phases and because of the presence of contaminants and important amounts of water.

High resolution TEM image showing the onion-shaped graphite (0001)gr in the surface of diamond (111)dia. The absence of orientation relationship suggests that graphite is here a product of retrograde annealing of diamond.

This new study confirms and provides new evidence for the earlier conclusion that "Hypatia" is a fascinating new type of extra-terrestrial material. In contrast to the exploratory work reported by Kramers et al. (2013), we did find noble gases with isotopic signatures closely resembling the Q component. We also found nitrogen with an isotopic signature clearly distinct from primitive chondrites and closely resembling those of various differentiated meteoritic materials. In particular, we compare our data with noble gas and nitrogen signatures in three known types of carbon-rich extraterrestrial materials: carbon-rich veins in ureilite meteorites, graphite nodules in iron meteorites, and carbon-rich lithologies in acapulcoites and lodranites, and we discuss a possible link of "Hypatia" with each of these materials.