Diamonds from fallen meteorite hint to a lost planet?

Eloise Marshall
April 18, 2018

The study shows that the parent body from which the meteorite came was a planetary embryo of a size between Mercury to Mars.

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. The asteroid, now known as "2008 TC3", was just over four meters in diameter. Roughly 4 kg of the meteorite were found during expeditions led by the University of Khartoum, and several (280) small (1 - 10 cm) and thinly-crusted stones have been recovered from the large strewn field. The fragments were gathered and organized into the Almahata Sitta collection. But further evidence of sustained high pressure would be expected to be found in the minerals surrounding the diamonds, he said.

The asteroid, called 2008 TC3 or Almahata Sitta, was the size of a vehicle.

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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. These have been known for a long time to exist inside Earth's diamonds, but are now described for the first time in an extraterrestrial body.

They discovered chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfide embedded in the diamond, with compositions and morphologies that could only have occurred under greater pressure than 20 gigapascals - almost 200,000 times that of sea level atmospheric pressure. Their presence suggests these diamonds arose within the crushing pressures found in the interior of a planet. Such planetary embryos were the building blocks of the rocky planets now seen in the inner solar system. 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.

Other of these went on to form larger planets, or collided with the Sun or were ejected from the solar system altogether. Though there's no way to know what exactly happened to the "lost" planet that formed these diamonds, it was likely destroyed through collisions billions of years ago.

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