Hailstones of glass


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Hailstones of glass

It was not a good day for anybody living in Indochina! The projectile – an asteroid or comet in the order of 2km to 3km in diameter – approached from the northwest at incredible speed. Twenty kilometres per second is realistic for asteroids encountering the Earth and the intruder penetrated the planet’s atmosphere in seconds. The tremendous explosion as it hit the Earth’s surface shook all of Southeast Asia like a massive earthquake, flattening forests and killing animals for hundreds of kilometres in all directions. A bright fireball of super-hot gas consisting of fine molten debris shot upward through the atmosphere and into space above – its radiant heat setting fire to the flattened remains of the surrounding forest as it departed.

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As the turbulent fireball cooled high above the Earth’s surface, tiny molten particles began to clump back together, trapping bubbles of air within their mass as their viscosity increased. Spinning masses stretched and tore apart, refastening to other globules of the cooling liquid before growing large enough to begin falling back to Earth. These molten projectiles cooled and hardened so quickly that crystallisation wasn’t possible. They fell from the sky like rain – a barrage of glass hailstones that thundered to the ground down-range of the impact site.

AAOD Journal Issue 9 (2011) – pages 56 to 69 
By Dr Peter W Haines

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