Diamonds from long-lost planet
A diamond-filled asteroid that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere may be evidence of a long-lost “proto-planet” that orbited the sun billions of years ago, new research suggests. Scientists speculate that in the early days of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago, the first planets to coalesce from swirling gases and dust were destroyed by violent collisions and bombardments, with the current eight planets and other bodies then forming from that debris. A rare meteorite, called a ureilite, found in Sudan’s Nubian Desert 10 years ago may contain the first evidence of the earlier worlds. Examining the ureilite under an electron microscope, scientists found it contained tiny diamonds filled with impurities made of chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides. The pressure necessary to produce these minerals could occur only within a planet roughly the size of Mars. Study author Farhang Nabiei tells The Washington Post that the asteroid has provided strong new evidence of a previous generation of planets. “This is part of the story of how we came to be,” Nabiei says.