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19 April 2018, 01:59 | Gerardo Harmon
Could micro-diamonds reveal the secrets of the early solar system?SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI SCIENCE
The other tiny fraction of the 50,000 meteorites scientists have recovered so far originate on the moon and Mars. This is the conclusion of the scientists who studied the meteorite Almakata Sita, who had fallen into the Sudanese Nubia desert in 2008. Scientists say that under the meteorites' thick carbonized exterior hid diamonds which enclosed remnants of a long-lost planet or planetary embryo during the insane days of the early solar system.
This is the Almahata Sitta ureilite achondritic meteorite, and it's full of diamonds. An astronomer tracked the meteorite before it entered Earth's atmosphere, enlisting other sky watchers to help keep tabs on it.
Instead, they were discovered inside a small asteroid that slammed into the atmosphere over the Nubian Desert in northeastern Sudan in October 2008.
And in case you are imagining large twinkling space gems, let's also be clear that these diamonds are extremely tiny - the biggest are about the width of a human hair. Instead, the researchers suggested the diamonds were produced inside an unknown planetary body.
Farhang Nabiei, from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, say that the measurements they made provide "the first compelling evidence for such a large body that has since disappeared". "And indeed, they did". To study this piece of history, researchers (carefully) worked with one section of the Almahata Sitta ureilite meteorite using transmission electron microscopy. They calculated that there would need to be a pressure of 200,000 bar (2.9 million psi). Also, the only way that any material can get trapped inside a diamond, says one of the researchers, is if it goes through vast levels of stress and pressure.
The researchers note that our simulations of the formation of the Solar System produce tens of "planetary embryos" that can be as big as Mars. Eventually those bodies collided and flung material out into space. Until now, the existence of these early worlds were only predicted by simulation models.
While no remnants of these proto-planets have ever been found, scientists have long thought that ureilites could be relics of them.
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