Published: Thu, April 19, 2018
Research | By Francis Brooks

Space diamonds came from planet lost billions of years ago

Space diamonds came from planet lost billions of years ago

That would mean the rock that fell to Earth almost a decade ago was part of a "lost" planet formed - and destroyed- at the dawn of the solar system.

Although small in size - the largest ones measuring less than four inches, shows The Meteoritical Society - the Almahata Sitta meteorites help unravel the mysteries of our solar system's early days.

Dr. Gillet's colleague Farhang Nabiei made the discovery while taking high-resolution images of a meteorite that had landed in the Nubian Desert in Sudan about a decade ago. It was spotted by astronomers a few hours before its collision with the Earth in October 2008, which allowed scientists to observe its fall.

The diamonds come from a mysterious land which one circled the sun 4.5billion years ago, according to experts. Their remains make up the planets of today's solar system, along with asteroids and other rocky debris.

The diamonds we're familiar with are formed when sheets of carbon called graphite - the same material in pencil lead - is squeezed to incredible pressures. We discovered chromite, phosphate, and (Fe, Ni)-sulfide inclusions embedded in diamond. One of these embryo planets - dubbed Theia - is believed to have slammed into a young Earth, ejecting a large amount of debris that later formed the moon.

"It is the first time that we found inclusions in extraterrestrial diamonds", Dr Nabiei said.

Two planets violently collide in space.       Shutterstock
Two planets violently collide in space. Shutterstock

The Almahata Sitta meteorite crashed into the Nubian Desert of Sudan in 2008 and has been a subject of study ever since.

The paper, published in the journal Nature Communications, reveals that asteroid 2008 TC3 may have come from an ancient planet, formed early on during the birth of the solar system, reports the Washington Post. Also in stones, the experts saw a number of mineral inclusions, formed only at a pressure of 200 000 atmospheres.

A microscope's view of a diamond-encrusted meteorite.

The Almahata Sitta meteorites are mostly ureilites, a rare type of stony meteorite that often contains clusters of nano-sized diamonds.

"The particularly exciting thing is, [the researchers] have a really strong case with the pressures that they're measuring to say there really is no other way around the fact that this had to be a really big body present early in solar system history".

Many planetary formation models have predicted that these planetary embryos existed in the first million years of our solar system, and the study offers evidence of their existence. "This study provides convincing evidence the ureilite parent body was one such large "lost" planet before it was destroyed by collisions".

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