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Diamonds found in an unknown meteorite came from a lost planet

19 April 2018

A new study suggests that the diamonds found within a meteorite that fell in the Nubian Desert in 2008 were part of an early lost planet in our solar system. Such a planetary-sized body is now long gone, having been destroyed in a cataclysmic game of billiard early on in the solar system's history. Swiftly he summoned the help of colleagues and casual stargazers, who tracked the space rock as it exploded in the sky, raining shrapnel down on 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 means that the parent body inside which they were formed (i.e. the ancient planet where 2008 TC3 came from) was bigger than Mercury and possibly even as large as Mars.

It is now thought they came from a mysterious planet that once circled the Sun billions of years ago. New research has shown that orality contain large diamond grains, which could occur when high pressure inside the protoplanet.

The diamonds in the meteorite had chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides embedded in them, known as "inclusions", the Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Studying the chemical contents inside the diamonds, the scientists concluded that they were captured by the diamonds during an extremely high-pressure phase that could be found only in a planetary body between the size of Mercury and Mars.

The scientists used transmission electron microscopy to study the high-pressure environment that formed the crystals and altered the minerals around it, and determined that the composition and shapes of the inclusions inside the diamonds must have formed at high pressures (above 20 gigapascals).

"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, told the Associated Press.

But while many stony meteorites hail from Mars, these were peculiar: They contained a bunch of tiny diamonds.

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"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", the researchers wrote in their paper.

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

The mystery planet doesn't have a name, but the researchers said it was "lost" when it was "destroyed by collisions some 4.5 billion years ago".

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Diamonds found in an unknown meteorite came from a lost planet