New Study Reveals Space Diamonds Found in Meteorite Came From an Ancient Lost Planet
What's cooler than finding a meteorite? Finding diamonds in that meteorite. And what's even cooler than finding space diamonds? Discovering that those diamonds may be from an ancient lost protoplanet that was destroyed in the early days of our solar system.
According to a new study published Nature Communications, that's exactly what we have on our hands—one of the study's co-authors, Philippe Gillet, claims that the large diamonds his team found in the Almahata Sitta meteorite "cannot be the result of a shock but rather of growth that has taken place within a planet."
The Almahata Sitta meteorite crashed into the Nubian Desert of Sudan in 2008 and has been a subject of study ever since.
The team of scientists studying its interior found both graphite and diamonds and discovered that the latter contained crystals that are only formed under extreme pressure conditions—scientists estimated it would take around 200,000 bars, or 2.9 million pounds per square inch (psi) to create them.
For comparison, the pressure at the bottom of the Marianas Trench is around 1,086 bars, or 15,750 psi. One of the few places where that pressure can be found is inside of a planet, and based on the pressure, scientists estimated the unknown planet would have to be the size of Mars or Mercury.
Our solar system wasn't always made of nine eight planets—early in its development, there may have been several more nascent worlds developing around the sun.
These diamonds may be all that's left of one of them, says Gillet: "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."
For scientists, the early solar system is still shrouded in mystery—we're still not sure exactly how our Moon was created, for starters. This chunk of space diamond may be one of the few windows we have into what our stellar neighborhood used to look like.