Diamonds in Meteorite May Hail from Our Ancient Solar System

An artist's concept of a protoplanetary disc

However, a diamond with inclusions is far more valuable from a scientific standpoint than a so-called flawless jewel.

On October 7, 2008, an 80-ton asteroid (2008 TC3) entered the Earth's atmosphere and exploded into hundreds of smaller meteorites about 23 miles above the Nubian Desert in Sudan. According to a 2015 study, however, the diamonds in Almahata Sitta are much, much larger and were likely not produced by shock waves.

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. The study shows us that the ureilite parent body was once a largely lost planet which was destroyed by collisions.

"That is pretty exciting", she added.

To check on that explanation, a group led by Farhang Nabiei of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne threw the diamonds under a transmission electron microscope. This was the first time that a team of scientists tracked an asteroid that became a meteor. Students from the University of Khartoum recovered more than 600 pieces of the meteorite.




The size of the diamonds is another clue that we're dealing with some very peculiar objects. The diamonds that were found inside the asteroid were extremely tiny and the biggest of them was about the width of a human hair. This particular set of diamonds were formed at 20 gigapascals - the entire weight of its home planet pushing down on it. He plans to seek out similar meteorites and search them for inclusions that might provide clues about their origins.

Those flaws made the diamond extraordinary. 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.

The Almahata Sitta meteorites are mostly ureilites, a rare type of stony meteorite that often contains clusters of nano-sized diamonds.

The researchers took this as evidence that the diamonds actually captured these minerals when they were bound together in a higher-pressure phase, and they have subsequently decomposed into lower-pressure phases within the inclusions. This level of internal pressure can only be explained if the planetary parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary "embryo", depending on the layer in which the diamonds were formed.

While there are eight main planets orbiting the solar system, an worldwide team of scientists believes that perhaps there could have been another planet that could have ceased to exist at the time when the planets and the solar system itself were chaotically forming.

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