Asteroid containing large diamonds came from lost planet in our solar system

An artist's illustration of a protoplanet

An artist’s illustration of a protoplanet

Our solar system began to form approximately 4.6-billion years ago - which means this hunk of rocks and such is pretty gosh-darned old.

Nearly a decade ago, a meteorite entered the atmosphere of the Earth, where it exploded and got scattered in the Nubian desert of Sudan. "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. But it turns out the asteroid is significant in more ways than one.

Now, for the first time in 10 years, a new study by scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland finally sheds some light into the asteroid's planetary origin.

Researchers from Switzerland, France, and Germany published a study in the journal Nature Communications showing that the Almahata Sitta contained tiny diamonds inside it.

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Photo Fragments of the 2008 TC3, or Almahata Sitta, meteorite that fell to Earth in 2008. Very early in the hot formation of the Solar System, carbon vapor could even have condensed into these minerals in the right conditions.

Diamonds found inside a meteorite which exploded over Sudan could prove the existence of a "lost planet", scientists have announced.

Using electron microscopy, scientists have studied in detail the diamonds, with the result that it became clear that the original amount of precious metal in URALITA was 100 micrometers. The novelty, however, is that they've never been documented "in an extraterrestrial body" before, shows the Swiss institute. 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.

The particular composition and morphology of these materials can only be explained if the pressure under which the diamonds were formed was higher than 20 GPa (giga-Pascals, the unit of pressure), according to the researchers. That's 197,385 times the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea level, reports the Daily Mail.

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An ancient planet may have aged long enough to form diamonds but not survive the tumultuous period during the formation of the solar system.

Almahata Sitta is an anomalous, polymict ureilite (achondrite). "We don't have much evidence from those specific planetary embryos".

And the asteroids still floating around the Solar System, astronomers believe, are the leftovers from those days - from the repeated collisions that blasted material back into space.

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