Meteorite Diamonds Could Shed Light On A Lost Planet

An artist's illustration of a protoplanet
An artist’s illustration of a protoplanet
Author

19 April, 2018

But we don't have information from them.

Using a powerful electron microscopy technique, scientists studied the composition of diamonds contained in the rock fragments that had dispersed over the Nubian Desert (northern Sudan) after the asteroid explosion. "It has a chemistry which has no equivalent in the solar system today, in terms of planets", he said.

It all starts with dust grains in the protoplanetary disc around a young star.

Most planetesimals stay that size. Unlike other meteorites, which can be traced to parent bodies such as asteroids, Mars or the moon by comparing the ratios of different varieties of elements, these rocks have no known source.

And the asteroids still floating around the Solar System, astronomers believe, are the leftovers from those days - from the repeated collisions that blasted material back into space.

A meteorite that fell to Earth in 2008 contains diamonds forged at the heart of a dead, long-lost planet.

The space rock, called Almahata Sitta, is extraordinary in several ways.

The bands of diamond shot through the Almahata Sitta meteorite are said to be the first compelling evidence that this is really what happened. It's the first time such inclusions have been identified inside extraterrestrial diamonds.

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Nor, the researchers said, could chemical vapour deposition have produced the crystal sizes - which leaves static high pressure.

These are the same elements that diamonds found on Earth are typically made of.

They concluded that these gems must have formed at high pressures (greater than 20 Gigapascals) requiring the protoplanet to be of size from Mars to Mercury. The pressures found about 1 mile deep cause the carbon to crystallize into diamonds.

A mission recently selected by NASA, called Psyche, will launch a spacecraft to the metallic core of a Mars-size planet.

"However, this specific proto-planet has been destroyed in the early solar system and that is unique so far", said lead researcher Dr. Farhang Nabiei of EPFL's Earth and Planetary Science Laboratory.

While there are eight main planets orbiting the solar system, an global team of scientists believes that perhaps there could have been another planet that could have ceased to exist at the time when the planets and the solar system itself were chaotically forming.

"This study provides convincing evidence that the ureilite parent body was one such large "lost" planet before it was destroyed by collisions some 4.5 billion years ago", the researchers were quoted as saying by EPFL in a news release on Tuesday.


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