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Cosmic spherules as rounded bodies in space

Naturevolume 266pages515517 (1977) | Download Citation



COSMIC spherules obtained from deep-sea sediments have generally been accepted as extraterrestrial; but their mode of formation has been uncertain. On chemico-mineralogical evidence and the study of polished sections, it is difficult to refute the assumption that the spherules are merely the droplets shed from the fusion crust of a meteorite as it ablates in the atmosphere. We are now re-examining a new spherule collection (diameter > 50 µm) from surface red clay samples used previously1; that is, Atlantic A2 (24°30′N, 64°47′W, 5949-m depth) and Pacific (22°07′S, 115°10′W, 3,060–3,200-m depth). Scanning electron microscopy of 40 ‘stony’ spherules and 25 ‘irons’ has led us to consider a new hypothesis—that the cosmic spherule is a round body in space and those that we find suffer only slight alteration during their grazing flight through the atmosphere. Interesting surface features exist on many of the spherules, both stones and irons, which make it difficult to believe that they have been sprayed from a meteorite. If our hypothesis can be substantiated, then cosmic spherules become important objects in their own right, a cometary origin beingas distinct possibility. We now show some of these surface feature and mention other supporting evidence. From the surface appearance we can classify the spherules into different types and forms, and all forms occur with similar relative frequency in Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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  1. School of Physics, University of Bath, UK

    • D. W. PARKIN
    •  & R. A. L. SULLIVAN
  2. School of Chemistry, University of Bath, UK

    • J. N. ANDREWS


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