This Diamond-Laced Meteorite Could Be From Earth's Long-Lost Planetary Sibling

An artist's illustration of a protoplanet

The fragments studied here consist of mostly ureilites, rocks that come from the original ureilite parent body (UPB).

What scientists have figured out since, after gathering about 50 pieces of what was left, is that it came from the first 10 million years of our solar system - from a planet around the size of Mars or Mercury that ultimately was destroyed.

Was found after the explosion, the meteor was mainly composed of coarse-grained rocks (olivine and pyroxene), which could be formed in the mantle of "planet-Bud", and the concentration of carbon in them was unusually high.

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In the space rocks, which are also called meteorites, researchers found compounds common to diamonds on Earth, such as chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides.

The substances which are trapped inside the diamonds can only be formed in the pressure which is about 20 gigapascals (GPa). At first, it was believed that the diamonds formed with the shock of colliding with another body. "We think that there were probably many larger "parent" bodies in the early solar system, which have since been destroyed, so a since-destroyed body the size of Mercury is reasonable", he says.

The crystals were discovered to be embedded within the diamonds through a powerful scanned technique called transmission electron microscopy. Astronomers traced the path of asteroid Almahata Sitta and even recovered meteorite remnants. They said that the pressure that is required in order to produce the diamonds can only be available in this type of planets with this size. First, the researchers' explanation for the graphite breaking up the diamond is that pre-existing diamonds were messed up by a later collision event-probably one that blasted apart the planetary body and freed these diamonds that were deep inside it. They could only have formed under incredible pressure - the equivalent of diving 600 kilometers into Earth's interior or attempting to hold up 100,000 tons with your bare hands.

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"What makes this study so exciting is that it is direct evidence from an actual rock that there was a large protoplanetary body that is no longer around", said Meenakshi Wadhwa, who studies meteorites at Arizona State University and who was not involved in the new work. Some of these bodies were almost as big as Mars and one of them, dubbed Theia, collided with Earth to throw our moon into orbit.

Farhang Nabiei, a materials scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the lead author of the report, expressed his surprise at the findings given the lack of evidence collected so far to confirm the existence of these early planets.

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