Diamonds from long-lost planet found in desert asteroid

19 April, 2018, 01:49 | Author: Patty Aguilar
  • Could micro-diamonds reveal the secrets of the early solar system

Scientists have long theorized that the early solar system once contained many more planets - some of which were likely little more than a mass of molten magma.

Meteorite hunters recovered about 50 fragments, which researchers later named the "Almahata Sitta" collection after a nearby train station in Sudan.

"This level of internal pressure can only be explained if the planetary parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary 'embryo, ' depending on the layer in which the diamonds were formed", the researchers said in a statement from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne in Switzerland. Because diamonds are forged at vast pressures and temperatures, typically deep inside the planet, the various materials that get trapped inside are quite hard to get a hold of at the surface - and diamonds can preserve them for billions of years. Some collisions formed larger worlds, while others created systems of planets and satellites like the Earth and its moon.

Diamond inclusions appear blue in this colorized scanning transmission electron microscope image of Almahata Sitta meteorite No. 15.

The researchers, led by planetary scientists Farhang Nabiei, studied the diamond inclusions inside the meteorite and found relatively large, individual diamond crystals up to 100 μm that could not have formed under an impact event, because of such an event's short duration, which would not allow time for such large crystals to form. The space rock is classified as ureilite, a type of rare meteorite that has embedded within it several different types of minerals. But at first, the origins of the diamonds eluded researchers. When it exploded in the atmosphere, it scattered multiple fragments across the desert.


Now, a new study published in the journal Nature Communications supports that idea.

"I thought, if there were diamonds forming inside a planet, inside a parent body, they could have trapped some material from their environment", Nabiei said.

Many planetary formation models have predicted that these planetary embryos existed in the first million years of our solar system, and the study offers compelling evidence for their existence. The pressures found about a mile deep cause the carbon to crystallize into diamonds.

Rest either went on to form bigger planetary bodies or ended up being destroyed by the sun or ejected out of the solar system. The authors write "This study provides convincing evidence that the ureilite parent body was one such large "lost" planet before it was destroyed by collisions some 4.5 billion years ago".

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