Safe to handle after it was melted by an "atomic blast"?It is mildly radioactive, but is safe to handle.
And they call us the crazies?“I sell a lot of it. You have to be careful where you buy it. You can fake trinitite using a welding torch,” Nelson says. She has heard of one piece as big as a dinner plate, perhaps another tall tale, with an asking price of $50,000.
By the early 1950s, the government had buried almost all of the Trinitite and banned entry to the site. Prior to that,
however, collectors had acquired a large amount of the material.
Federal agencies had been sponsoring an annual trek to worship at Trinity, and the green disc of radioactive glass was there for innocents to pray over. While living in the remote desert of northern New Mexico I had seen an aerial photograph of the site in a popular magazine. It looked like a giant scab. It was an impurity waiting to be taken away. Writers wrote about it. I was determined to remove it without a trace of publicity. My self-appointed task was to gain entry to the government glass and haul it off for burial, to repair the desert, clean away the radioactive afterbirth.
The glass is a form of tektite, a word which comes from the Greek word tektos, meaning molten. However, it is not known yet if tektites were first produced on the moon and then ejected as meteorites which landed on earth or whether they were produced as a result of an impact on earth. Another theory has it that the glass was not a result of a meteor impact but of a "radiative melting from meteoric aerial bursts" which makes the glass analogous to trinitite (which is created from sand blasted by thermal radiation of a nuclear explosion).
I was chosen to participate in the role of a dissenter from the preferred explanation that the glass was formed by direct shock-melting by a crater-forming asteroid impact. I had stumbled into the debate by accident in 1996, when I attended a conference on the subject of the 1908 explosion of an asteroid or comet that knocked down nearly a thousand square miles of trees in Siberia. I stayed an extra day to attend a meeting about the desert glass, where I argued that similar — but larger — atmospheric explosions could create fireballs that would be large and hot enough to fuse surface materials to glass, much like the first atomic explosion generated green glass at the Trinity site in 1945.
March 3, 2006
According to a news item in this week's issue of Science magazine, planetary scientist Farouk El-Baz has just discovered "the largest crater yet found in the Sahara," and is suggesting that it has the right characteristics to answer a long-standing mystery. Since 1932, scientists have been picking up yellow-green glass in a 60-by-100-kilometer (35-by-60-mile) area of the desert of southern Egypt near the Libyan border. Study of the glass has revealed the unmistakable isotopic signature of an asteroid impact, but the source crater has never been found -- until now.
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