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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by Selina Moore
Physical Geology
Fall 2009

                                        The Origin of Tektites


            Tektites are pieces of natural glass, ranging in sizes as small as specks to larger blocks.  Tektites are usually black but some (very few) have been found in yellow or green.

tek-38c.gif                tek-35.gif                tek-22.gif

 Few are transparent to translucent, but most are nearly opaque.  Their hardness is 5-6 and most Tektites are found in Australia, also known as Australites.  Although there have been many theories and arguments of the Origin of Tektites, the question still remains; where did they come from?

            One of the first theories was said that Tektites were obsidian that had been launched from the Moon to the Earth due to lunar volcanism.  However, soon scientist learned craters in the moon are an impact from meteorites and lava only exists in the core of the moon.

            Now the Lunar theory suggests Tektites are pieces of rocks from the moon that have been launched to the Earth due to the impact of meteorites.  Once the rocks entered the Earth’s atmosphere, they began a melting process which gave the Tektites their distinct shape.


            Some argue against the lunar theory because during the Apollo mission samples of the Moon’s soil were brought back and did not match the chemical composition of Tektites.

            The Terrestrial Origin came about because the chemical composition of Tektites matches some of the rocks found in the Earth’s crust. Some scientists believe after a comet or asteroid struck the Earth molten blobs were splashed out of the Earth’s atmosphere and fell back down at high velocity.  The argument against the Terrestrial Origin is that there has never been an appropriate impact crater to account for all of the Earth’s tektite fields.

             One thing scientists can agree on is how Tektites obtained their shape.  The shape is explained by two heating events; the first created the glass and the second is from the object entering the Earth’s atmosphere at such a high velocity.


            Other factors that come about when determining the origin of Tektites is that most Tektites have been dated at 700,000 years which implies they originated from one big event.  However, there are still some Tektites that are dated at 4 million years.  Tektites also show evidence that they were not in space for a long period of time.  Another factor is that Tektites are found in very concentrated patches instead of being spread out.


            The earliest discovery of Tektites dates back to the late 1700’s, after all the years of study the true origin of Tektites is still unknown.  The true origin may never be discovered, but to some part of the beauty of Tektites is because the mystery behind them.