Diamonds recovered from a meteorite which crashed in Sudan could be material from a long-lost planet, according to a new study. This piece of rock impacted on Earth on October 7, 2008, a day after being discovered by astronomers in Tucson, Arizona. Upon examination, it was found to contain many tiny diamonds, roughly as wide across as a human hair.
Known as a ureilite, this relic of the ancient past is rich in carbon. Under tremendous pressure and heat, this material can transform into diamonds. Nearly 500 similar meteorites have been discovered at various places around the world.
Researchers believed the diamonds within the Almahata Sitta ureilite may have been unique, due to the relatively large size of the tiny gems within its structure. This idea has recently become more likely, as a new investigation reveal inclusions, or impurities in the diamonds, which could only form under tremendous pressures, like those at the center of a planet.
Astronomers estimate the ancient planet may have been the size of Mercury or Mars. Current theories suggest dozens of similar bodies existed in the first 10 million years after the creation of the solar system.
“Many planetary embryos were Mars-sized bodies, such as the one that collided with Earth to give rise to the Moon. Other of these went on to form larger planets, or collided with the Sun or were ejected from the solar system altogether,” researchers reported.
The planet from which this fragment has been recovered was likely destroyed over 4.5 billion years ago.