Diamonds from long-lost planet found in desert asteroid

19 Abril, 2018, 00:45 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • Diamonds in desert asteroid point to long-lost planet

When it finally exploded over the Nubian desert, volunteers recovered 600 bits of the rock, making it the first meteorite ever traced from space and recovered on the ground.

Witnesses at a railway stop in the Nubian desert called "Station Six" or Almahata Sitta in Arabic reported seeing a "rocket-like fireball" in the sky.

Diamond inclusions appear blue in this colorized scanning transmission electron microscope image of Almahata Sitta meteorite No. 15.

These meteorites-referred to as Almahata Sitta-belong to a rare type, known as ureilites-rocky meteorites with a unique mineralogical composition that contain diamonds. By the end of that era, about 100 million years after the birth of the solar system, only the four current terrestrial planets remained. These diamonds had chromite, phosphate, and (Fe, Ni)-sulfide inclusions - all of which pointed toward a formation pressure higher than 20GPa. This particular set of diamonds were formed at 20 gigapascals - the entire weight of its home planet pushing down on it. "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.

The diamonds in the meteorite have tiny crystals inside them and they required a large amount of pressure to form.

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

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Scientists have used special electron microscopy and found out that the diamonds in the asteroid were formed due to a pressure that can only occur in a big object, such as a planet (of a size similar to Mercury or Mars). Very early in the hot formation of the Solar System, carbon vapor could even have condensed into these minerals in the right conditions.

These diamonds may be all that's left of one of them, says Gillet: "What we're claiming here is that we have in our hands a remnant of this first generation of planets that are missing today because they were destroyed or incorporated in a bigger planet". Some of these bodies were almost as big as Mars and one of them, dubbed Theia, collided with Earth to throw our moon into orbit.

He said the study provided convincing evidence that the ureilite parent body was one of the "lost" planets before it was destroyed.

The finding provides more information on the early days of our solar system about 4.4 billion years ago, when the zone near the sun had several planetary embryos.

In the beginning, our solar system was in complete chaos, with bodies colliding and forming planets, and astronomers think that there were once other 10 planets in our solar system.


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