Diamond From Sky May Have Come From 'Lost Planet'

An illustration of the early solar system when the planet body of the Almahata Sitta meteorite may have existed

An illustration of the early solar system when the planet body of the Almahata Sitta meteorite may have existed

This wonderful finding could help us figure out one of the most enduring questions of astronomy, that of the formation of planets.

There are many mysteries about the formation of planets, but based on our own Solar System and studying the growing number of exoplanets, we more or less know how it might work.

Our stellar neighborhood has eight main planetary bodies, but according to an global team of scientists, there could have been another planet in our backyard, one that might have been destroyed at infancy during the chaotic formation of the solar system or in the ensuing years.

"What we're claiming here", said Gillet, "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". Almahata Sitta is the first case in which meteorites have been recovered from a known asteroid that was tracked in space and during its subsequent collision with our planet. Only fifty fragments, ranging in size from 1-10 cm, were collected, for a total mass of 4.5 kg. Scientists believe ureilite diamonds can form three ways: under the extreme pressure triggered by a planetary collision, through chemical vapor deposition or under normal pressure conditions inside the parent body - as most diamonds on Earth are formed.

The Almahata Sitta fragments are ureilites, a kind of rocky meteorite containing clusters of tiny diamonds.

However, until now, no evidence could be found to confirm any of these methods over the other. The diamonds are said to be evidence of the early worlds.

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The other fascinating thing about diamonds is that, as they are forming, they often trap minerals present in their formation environment.

The researchers posited this theory after gathering and analyzing the asteroid fragments through transmission electron microscopy.

They concluded that these gems must have formed at high pressures (greater than 20 Gigapascals) requiring the protoplanet to be of size from Mars to Mercury.

He said the study provided convincing evidence that the ureilite parent body was one of the "lost" planets before it was destroyed. The team's result suggests that the diamonds in Almahata Sitta formed in a Mercury- to Mars-sized protoplanet.

A meteorite which crashed to Earth a decade ago has now been discovered to be part 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".

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