Diamonds in a Meteorite May Be a Lost Planet's Fragments


Scientists say that under the meteorites' thick carbonized exterior hid diamonds which enclosed remnants of a long-lost planet or planetary embryo during the insane days of the early solar system. Now, scientists at Philippe Gillet's lab at EPFL, with colleagues in France and Germany, have studied large diamonds (100-microns in diameter) in some of the Almahata Sitta meteorites and discovered that the asteroid came from a planetary "embryo" whose size is between Mercury to Mars. It was spotted by astronomers a few hours before its collision with the Earth in October 2008, which allowed scientists to observe its fall.

In 2008, pieces of diamond encased in rock descended from space and landed in the Nubian Desert of Sudan. They said that the pressure that is required in order to produce the diamonds can only be available in this type of planets with this size.

Farhang Nabiei, lead author of the paper, believes that this 4.5 billion-year-old relic comes from an era about which we don't have any knowledge and a planet that no longer exists.

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Researchers have deduced that the early solar system once contained many more planet, some of which were likely little more than a mass of molten magma.

In the space rocks, which are also called meteorites, researchers found compounds common to diamonds on Earth, such as chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides. But further evidence of sustained high pressure would be expected to be found in the minerals surrounding the diamonds, he said.

If enough grains of dust gradually accumulate to form larger clumps, and then enough of those clumps collide and fuse together, the whole thing gravitationally collapses into a more solid body between 1 and 10 kilometres in size - a planetesimal. This particular set of diamonds were formed at 20 gigapascals - the entire weight of its home planet pushing down on it.

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Photo Fragments of the 2008 TC3, or Almahata Sitta, meteorite that fell to Earth in 2008.

Since the tiny diamonds found in the Almahata Sitta meteorites have a similar composition to the ones here on Earth, the logical explanation of how they came to be is that they were fashioned in the same - by "the "normal" static pressure inside the parent body", notes the EPFL.

Rest either went on to form bigger planetary bodies or ended up being destroyed by the sun or ejected out of the solar system.

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The parent planet was about as large as Mercury or Mars, and would have existed billions of years ago before breaking up in collisions with other space rocks, according to a European research team that published their results in the scientific journal Nature Communications.