When an alien object crashes into the Earth, it sends a melted rock high into the atmosphere. This residue is cooled and recrystallized and falls back to Earth. Small glass beads that are formed in this process are called microtethics, and researchers in Florida have discovered microtecs in fossilized shells.
This story began more than 10 years ago in a career in Sarasota County, Florida. The walls of the quarry are filled with fossilized shells of the last few million years, which is a beautiful geological record of students to study. In 2006, students from the University of South Florida worked there, emitting open fossilized mussels and releasing sludge inside them through fine screens. They sought fossilized unicellular organisms, called benthic foraminifera, and an extremely diverse and important class of life form.
Roger Portel of the Natural History Museum in Florida led the students to their fieldwork. He told them to look for the southern corpse, or Mercenaria campechiensis, because they are like containers for sludge storage and smaller forms of life. "Rain can wash many of the finds down in the shell," Portel said. "But if they are caught in two large shells for shellfish, you catch all these fine things."
One student, Mike Meyer, found something else in some clams: small piercing glass balls smaller than salt beans.
"They really stood out," said Meyer, now an assistant professor of Earth Systems Science at Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania. "Sand beans are something of lumps, in the form of potatoes. But I kept finding these small, perfect spheres. "Meyer was interested in the small spheres, and he turned to the scientific community for help. But his emails to the researchers did not help. No one could tell him what they were. Meyer held 83 of them in a box for 10 years until he could look at them again.
"Just a few years ago I had free time," he said. "I was like," Let me start from scratch. "
He went on to analyze the microtecs. First, they analyze their chemical composition and their physical characteristics, then compare them with volcanic rocks and other things such as coal ash and other industrial byproducts. But they were different, and his analysis pointed to alien origin. "My mind blew my mind," Meyer said.
The fossilized mussels themselves are like time capsules. When they die, the fine sediment and particles can be deposited in them. Because they have been buried in the fossils over time, they are forced to close. This makes them excellent recorders of their time.
Roger Porter, co-author of the survey and field surveyor in 2006, who discovered small spheres, said: "Inside shells like these we can find whole crabs, sometimes fish skeletons. This is a nice way to keep specimens. "
But finding extraterrestrial microtecs may be more exciting than finding a skeleton.
Meyer believes that these small spheres are from one or more small, previously unknown meteorological effects potentially on or near the Florida platform, the plateau that abounds the Florida peninsula
"This high sodium content is intriguing because it offers very close to impact," Meyer said. "Or, at least, whatever it has done, it has probably hit a very large reserve of rock salt or ocean. Many of these indicators point to something close to Florida. "
A pair of scholars suspect that there are many other microteactics in Florida's seafloor beds. Unfortunately, the career they have found is now housing, so it can not be explored anymore. But they asked lovers of fossil fishermen in the state to be careful about the small spheres.