Rare Diamonds From A Long-Lost Planet Found In The Almahata Sitta Meteorites

Posted April 19, 2018

Part of the meteorite that landed at the Nubian Desert in Sudan in 2008.

"There are many meteorites coming from Mars or the moon". One of the few places where that pressure can be found is inside of a planet, and based on the pressure, scientists estimated the unknown planet would have to be the size of Mars or Mercury.

An asteroid that slammed into the Sudan desert on October 7, 2008, shot out lots of little space rocks holding a precious secret: diamonds that likely formed billions of years ago inside the embryo of a now-decimated planet.

The research was published online yesterday (April 17) in the journal Nature Communications. "We don't have much evidence from those specific planetary embryos".

Inside Earth, they're made when carbon-rich magma more than 100 miles below the crust pipes upward and cools in a lava tube.

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Also, the diamonds would have formed deep within whatever planet it was from, notes the report.

For this new study, author Farhang Nabiei, from Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, used an electron microscope to examine a piece of ureilite picked up when Almahata Sitta crash-landed in Sudan's Nubian Desert in 2008.

"In terrestrial diamonds, this has allowed [us] to estimate the depth of diamond formation, and to identify the composition and petrology of phases sampled at that depth", they added.

While no remnants of these proto-planets have ever been found, scientists have long thought that ureilites could be relics of them.

The researchers posited this theory after gathering and analyzing the asteroid fragments through transmission electron microscopy.

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The images revealed inclusions of sulfur, iron, and a mineral called chromite, as well as warping of the diamond crystal and nearby graphite. It's the first time these diamond components have been found in an extraterrestrial body, the researchers said in a new study describing the findings.

The Swiss institute called it a planetary "embryo" - a proto-planet that was created in the early chaotic days when the solar system was just starting out, and that got torn apart by cosmic collisions some 4.5 billion years ago.

Dr Nabiei continued saying, "Although this is the first compelling evidence for such a large body that has since disappeared, their existence in the early solar system has been predicted by planetary formation models". "We think that there were probably many larger "parent" bodies in the early solar system, which have since been destroyed, so a since-destroyed body the size of Mercury is reasonable", he says.

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.

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