Diamond From Sky May Have Come From 'Lost Planet'

Muriel Hammond
April 19, 2018

The fragments studied here consist of mostly ureilites, rocks that come from the original ureilite parent body (UPB). According to the new study, some extraterrestrial diamonds fell to Earth nearly 10 years ago that carry a lot of information about an ancient protoplanet of our solar system.

Researchers used three kinds of microscopy to find out about the mineral and chemical make-up of the rocks carrying diamonds found scattered in the Nubian desert of northern Sudan after the asteroid 2008 TC3 crashed into the atmosphere, the BBC reports.

Was found after the explosion, the meteor was mainly composed of coarse-grained rocks (olivine and pyroxene), which could be formed in the mantle of "planet-Bud", and the concentration of carbon in them was unusually high. 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.

Diamonds can act as time capsules: They trap nearby minerals during the formation process and, with their strength and stability, preserve material that scientists call inclusions.

"We have in our hands a piece of a former planet that was spinning around the sun before the end of the formation of today's solar system", said Philippe Gillet, a planetary scientist at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland and an author of the paper that was published in Nature Communications.

But that's not the only thing that made Almahata Sitta special.

If the researchers' interpretation of these diamonds is correct, however, this is the first such evidence. They suspected that these crystals may have formed the same way diamonds do on Earth - under the unbelievably high temperatures and pressures that exist in the interior of a planet - and only afterward were broken by a shock wave into smaller fragments. By examining these materials, they're able to get a picture of the early solar system. First, the researchers' explanation for the graphite breaking up the diamond is that pre-existing diamonds were messed up by a later collision event-probably one that blasted apart the planetary body and freed these diamonds that were deep inside it.

This holds true for diamonds formed in space as well.

To create these conditions, Nabiei said, the meteorite's parent body would have to have been a planet at least as big as Mercury and possibly as large as Mars.

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

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