These diamonds from space formed inside a long-lost planet, scientists say

Posted April 19, 2018

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

There are many mysteries about the formation of planets, but based on our own Solar System and studying the growing number of exoplanets, we more or less know how it might work. 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 were discovered inside a small asteroid that slammed into the Nubian Desert in northeastern Sudan in 2008.

They discovered chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfide embedded in the diamond, with compositions and morphologies that could only have occurred under greater pressure than 20 gigapascals - almost 200,000 times that of sea level atmospheric pressure. Because diamonds are forged at huge 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.

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Our stellar neighborhood has eight main planetary bodies, but according to an worldwide team of scientists, there could have been another planet in our backyard, one that might have been destroyed at infancy during the chaotic formation of the solar system or in the ensuing years.

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. The analysis of the data showed that the diamonds had chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides embedded in them - what scientists refer to as "inclusions".

This means the parent body of the Almahata Sitta meteorite was on the larger side of the protoplanet scale - Mercury-to-Mars size - and that this space rock's remaining fragments are what's left of this ancient celestial body, Nabiei said.

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

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The study was published online April 17 in the journal Nature Communications.

The bands of diamond shot through the Almahata Sitta meteorite are said to be the first compelling evidence that this is really what happened.

Researchers from Switzerland, France and Germany examined a slice of a so-called Almahata Sitta meteorite which exploded over Sudan's Nubian Desert in 2008.

Such planetary embryos got ejected from the solar system and either became rogue planets or smashed together. "Proto-Planet" was believed to be existed billions of years ago before breaking up in the collision and the size of the planet is said to be as large as Mercury or Mars.

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