Tiny meteorite diamonds come from long-lost planet

As a result, it is likely that they came from deep beneath a planet's surface.
By Joseph Scalise | Apr 18, 2018
Diamonds uncovered from a meteorite that exploded high above the Nubian desert 10 years ago likely came from a "lost planet" that once orbited our sun, according to new research in the journalNature Communications.

In the study, a group of international researchersfound the gems that formed in the meteorite had the same compounds as those formed under intense pressure. As a result, it is likely that they came from deep beneath a planet's surface.

For years, scientists have postulated that dozens of smaller planets formed in the first 10 million years of our solar system. However, as time went on they broke down through violent collisions and created the larger worlds we know today.

This new research -- which has not yet been confirmed -- falls in line with such theories and shows that the Almahata Sitta meteorite may be the only known remnant from those ancient worlds. Such information is significant because the diamonds could give researchers a key glimpse into the early days of our system.

"Simulations have suggested that the early solar system had tens of these embryonic planets that collided with each other to form the terrestrial planets, but having evidence of one of them? I wasn't expecting that," said lead author Farhang Nabiei, who studied pieces of the meteorite at the Federal Institute of Technology, according toThe Guardian.

The Almahata Sitta meteorite exploded over the Nubian desert in 2008. Soon after the event, researchers from the University of Khartoum gathered 480 pieces of the space rock for further study. Analysis then revealed is was a ureilite, an unusual composition that does not match rocks known to come from the moon or Mars. As a result, astronomers believed it came from another planet.

That theory then grew when the team found little diamonds within the material. Though many meteorites have diamond crystals, they are often much smaller. As the ones from the Almahata Sitta meteorite were too long to have been formed within an asteroid, the team came to the conclusion they must have come from a now-destroyed world.

"We are probably looking at an object that was one of the first planets to circle the sun before they collided with each other to create the actual planets we have today," said study co-author Philippe Gillet, a researcher at the Federal Institute of Technology.

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