Diamonds found in an unknown meteorite came from a lost planet

Posted April 19, 2018

The crashing of the meteorite was witnessed by many in the town of Wadi Halfa and at a railway stop in the Nubian desert, known as "Station Six".

What scientists have figured out since, after gathering about 50 pieces of what was left, is that it came from the first 10 million years of our solar system - from a planet around the size of Mars or Mercury that ultimately was destroyed.

Almahata Sitta was recovered from Asteroid 2008 TC3, a hunk of space debris that landed in the Nubian desert in Sudan in 2008.

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. Instead, the researchers suggested the diamonds were produced inside an unknown planetary body.

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A chemical map shows sulfur (red) and iron (yellow) inside the inclusions in the diamond matrix.

"Although this is the first compelling evidence for such a large body that has since disappeared, their existence in the early solar system has been predicted by planetary formation models", Dr Nabiei added.

But this is where the Almahata Sitta meteorites shed a light.

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. He plans to seek out similar meteorites and search them for inclusions that might provide clues about their origins.

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Scientists Paul Asimow of Caltech, who was not a part of the study, said that shock waves produce extremely tiny diamonds but the latest studied diamonds were bigger in size.

"What for a jeweler is an imperfection becomes for me something that is very useful because it tells me about the history of the diamond", said Dr. Gillet. On Earth, diamonds are used to identify the structure and composition of the planet's deep layers. When the study authors pointed their microscopes on the inclusions in the diamonds, they discovered that each inclusion contained several different minerals, but always in the same relative proportion to those in the other inclusions. They could only have formed under incredible pressure - the equivalent of diving 600 kilometers into Earth's interior or attempting to hold up 100,000 tons with your bare hands. "One as large as Mars seems a little surprising, but this paper presents the best, and perhaps only, type of evidence for determining the sizes of these parent bodies".

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.

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