Rare Diamonds From A Long-Lost Planet Found In The Almahata Sitta Meteorites

Audrey Hepburn was a diamond-studded star but scientists now think they've found evidence of a diamond studded planet

Audrey Hepburn was a diamond-studded star but scientists now think they've found evidence of a diamond studded planet. Bettmann Getty Images

About a decade ago, a violent explosion roughly 23 miles above the surface sent incendiary fragments hurling towards the dunes of the Nubian desert in Sudan. It was spotted by astronomers a few hours before its collision with the Earth in October 2008, which allowed scientists to observe its fall. 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. The diamonds discovered inside one of the fragment may have come from a protoplanet that orbited the sun billions of years ago. This is an extremely high form of pressure that humans can generate with certain explosives.

Diamonds can act as time capsules: They trap nearby minerals during the formation process and, with their strength and stability, preserve material that scientists call inclusions. Some of these bodies were almost as big as Mars and one of them, dubbed Theia, collided with Earth to throw our moon into orbit.

Researchers from France, Germany and Switzerland, headed by Farhang Nabei, of the Earth Science Laboratory and Planets of the Swiss Institute of Physics of the Swiss Federal School of Lausanne (EPFL), who published the publication in Nature Communications, used modern scientific methods and electronic microscopes to analyze in depth the meteorite.

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Nearly a decade ago, a meteorite entered the atmosphere of the Earth, where it exploded and got scattered in the Nubian desert of Sudan. They gathered the tiny pieces and cataloged them into Almahata Sitta, a collection of rare meteorites that often carry nano-sized diamonds. But at first, the origins of the diamonds eluded researchers.

According to the researchers, they said that all the ureilite asteroids are the remains of the same proto-planet.

Dr Nabiei continued saying, "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".

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Diamonds can form in three ways: from a shockwave that will transform the mineral into diamonds because of the high impact - like the collision of objects, the second way happened in the solar nebula where there is a carbon-rich vapor; and finally, just like it happens on Earth, diamonds form inside a body that has a very high pressure on the mineral.

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

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