Meteorite Diamonds Could Shed Light On A Lost Planet

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When a 13-foot asteroid exploded above the Nubian Desert about a decade ago, it thankfully didn’t cause any damage. However, scientists decided to volunteer and search for fragments that came from the asteroid, and they were able to collect more than 600 pieces of the meteorite. The meteorite is called Almahata Sitta. The original asteroid is known as 2008 TC3 and scientists believe that meteorite diamonds that fell in the desert from the explosion could hold information about a long-lost stellar neighbor that was destroyed when the solar system was starting to form.

While there are eight main planets orbiting the solar system, an international 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. According to the team, the small fragments of the meteorite diamonds could be connected to a long-lost planet that once existed in our solar system.

The researchers tested and analyzed the asteroid findings using the technique of transmission electron microscopy, in order to come up with this theory. The tiny fragments of the asteroid were cataloged into a collection named Almahata Sitta. Many of the rare meteorites contained nano-sized diamonds.

According to the team, the materials could have been formed at pressures of roughly 200,000 bar, which is believed to be the pressure found at the very core of the planet. The team’s theory suggests that the planet from which these meteorite diamonds came from could have been as large as Mercury or Mars.

The results of their analysis indicates that the fragments also hosted chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides, which are chemicals that are often found in diamonds on Earth, although scientists hadn’t observed similar fragments before this from space.

“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,” Philippe Gillet, one of the co-authors of the work published in the journal Nature Communications on April 17, told the Associated Press.

Scientists posed different theories and created several models of the solar system that could provide evidence of another planet, or planets, that existed in the solar system during its earlier days, during its chaotic formation, according to a press release from EPFL, Switzerland, which is one of the institutes that also collaborated with the team on the meteorite diamonds. One of the theories suggests that there was a planetary body known as Theia as large as Mars that collided with Earth, which resulted in earth’s natural satellite, the Moon being formed.

The theories further suggest that the rest of the planetary bodies initially formed in the solar system became part of larger planetary bodies like Jupiter, or Saturn, or ended up being destroyed by the sun, or possibly ejected from the solar system, similarly like it’s believed for ‘Oumuamua, our first interstellar visitor. According to the authors of the study, their theory “provides convincing evidence that the ureilite parent body was one such large “lost” planet before it was destroyed by collisions some 4.5 billion years ago.”

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