Sci-tech

Diamond encrusted asteroid that fell on Earth came from failed, lost planet

Diamond encrusted asteroid that fell on Earth came from failed, lost planet”

Scientists say that under the meteorites' thick carbonized exterior hid diamonds which enclosed remnants of a long-lost planet or planetary embryo during the insane days of the early solar system.

"Mars-sized bodies (such as the giant impactor that formed the Moon) were common [in the early solar system], and either accreted to form larger planets, or collided with the Sun or were ejected from the solar system". The Almahitta Sitta is named after the location in Sudan above which the space rock exploded 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.

These rocks are scattered all over the Nubian desert of northern Sudan when the asteroid 2008 TC3 came in contact with the earth atmosphere. This indicated to the scientists that they originally formed inside a planetary body ranging in size between Mercury and Mars, suggesting the ureilites were, in fact, the last remaining remnants of one of these lost planets.

Farhang Nabiei, lead author of the paper, believes that this 4.5 billion-year-old relic comes from an era about which we don't have any knowledge and a planet that no longer exists.

It is thought that these tiny diamonds can form in three ways: enormous pressure shockwaves from high-energy collisions between the meteorite "parent body" and other space objects; deposition by chemical vapor; or the "normal" static pressure inside the parent body, like most diamonds on Earth. New research has shown that orality contain large diamond grains, which could occur when high pressure inside the protoplanet.

"The analysis of the data showed that the diamonds had chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides embedded in them - what scientists refer to as "inclusions", EPFL explained in a news release.

A microscope's view of a diamond-encrusted meteorite. That may not sound like much, but that's still larger than any diamond that could possibly form by shock transformation of graphite (i.e. when a meteorite crashes on Earth).

The researchers studied the diamond samples using a combination of advanced transmission electron microscopy techniques. If confirmed, they say, it would be the first time anyone has recovered fragments from one of our solar system's so-called "lost" planets.

The study was published online April 17 in the journal Nature Communications.

"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. The pressures found about a mile deep cause the carbon to crystallize into diamonds.



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