There Is Evidence That a Planet in Our Solar System Was Destroyed
There Is Evidence That a Planet in Our Solar System Was Destroyed
Could micro-diamonds reveal the secrets of the early solar system?SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI SCIENCE
19 April, 2018, 01:51
"Planetary formation simulations suggest that they were tens of planetary embryos in the size range between that of moon and that of Mars in the early solar system". But researchers have discovered that one particular meteorite recovered from the Sudanese desert in 2008 is unique. It was spotted by astronomers a few hours before its collision with the Earth in October 2008, which allowed scientists to observe its fall. Only a planet the size of Mercury or Mars could produce that much pressure, the researchers conclude.
Our stellar neighborhood has eight main planetary bodies, but according to an worldwide team of scientists, there could have been another planet in our backyard, one that might have been destroyed at infancy during the chaotic formation of the solar system or in the ensuing years. Typically, these diamonds form in asteroids when they bang into other rocks in space, creating powerful shockwaves that roll through the orb conver some of its carbon into tiny diamonds, just millionths of a millimeter across. Transmission electron microscopy also revealed traces of chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides inside the larger diamonds, which are inclusions that can be found in Earth's diamonds, too.
The black fragment of Almahata Sitta meteorite No.number 15 appears stark against the lighter-colored rocks of the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan.
Although the asteroid's composition didn't remain a mystery for too long - the recovered 50 meteorites were quickly studied and identified as rare ureilites specked with tiny diamonds - little was known about where it had come from.
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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. Students from the University of Khartoum volunteered to search for fragments, ultimately recovering more than 600 pieces of the meteorite now known as Almahata Sitta.
Nanodiamonds can form from "normal" static pressure inside a large parent body like Earth, but there are other origin theories as well.
Such planetary embryos got ejected from the solar system and either became rogue planets or smashed together.
"This study provides convincing evidence that the ureilite parent body was one such large "lost" planet before it was destroyed by collisions some 4.5 billion years ago", the researchers were quoted as saying by EPFL in a news release on Tuesday.
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