Published: Thu, April 19, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Diamonds in Meteorite May Hail from Our Ancient Solar System

Diamonds in Meteorite May Hail from Our Ancient Solar System

Scientists have long theorized that the early solar system once contained many more planets - some of which were likely little more than a mass of molten magma.

Part of the meteorite that landed at the Nubian Desert in Sudan in 2008. It was spotted by astronomers a few hours before its collision with the Earth in October 2008, which allowed scientists to observe its fall.

In 2008, an asteroid was found in the Nubian desert, in Sudan, and presented diamond inlays. 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. 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.

In the space rocks, which are also called meteorites, researchers found compounds common to diamonds on Earth, such as chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides.

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The diamonds we're familiar with are formed when sheets of carbon called graphite - the same material in pencil lead - are squeezed to incredible pressures.

Photo A transmission electron microscopy image of one of the diamonds recovered from the meteorite.

The Swiss scientific team that made the discovery said in the study that the diamonds were formed at 197,385 times the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea level. "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", senior author Philippe Gillet tells the AP. This particular set of diamonds were formed at 20 gigapascals - the entire weight of its home planet pushing down on it.

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications reports that the meteorite contains tiny diamonds - yes, diamonds.

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Many planetary formation models have predicted that these planetary embryos existed in the first million years of our solar system, and the study offers evidence of their existence.

This meteorite named Almahata Sitta belongs to a class of rocks known as Ureilites - parts of a giant planet which is believed to have been catastrophically destroyed by a collision before the birth of our solar system.

Such planetary embryos got ejected from the solar system and either became rogue planets or smashed together.

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