In 2008, an asteroid was found in the Nubian desert, in Sudan, and presented diamond inlays. European researchers have proven that this extraterrestrial space rock comes from one of the protoplanets, larger than Mercury, that existed in our early solar system.
The scientists suppose that in the primitive solar system there were tens of protoplanets, with a size comprised between the one of the Moon and Mars, that ended up colliding and forming the rocky planets of the solar system, like ours, by means of the accretion or accumulation of material.
A type of asteroid called ureilite is a strong candidate to support this hypothesis since it is considered to be from those missing protoplanets, but the samples examined to date are inconclusive about this remote origin.
However, now a team of European researchers led by Professor Farhang Nabiei, from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (Switzerland) has analyzed a special ureilite meteorite, known as Almata Sitta.
The rock is one of the fragments that was recovered in the Nubian desert after the explosion of a small asteroid over the skies of this region of Sudan, in October 2008.
The Almatta Sitta space rock originated from a protoplanet in our early solar system
The findings of the study, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, revealed that the diamond inlays contained in this meteorite originated on a lost planet that circulated through the primitive solar system when it was about only 10 million years old.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed the tiny crystals of the diamonds using a technique with which they discovered that these precious stones had to be formed at very high pressures.
“We discovered inlays of chromite, phosphate, iron sulfide, and nickel inside the diamond, with a composition and morphology that can only be explained if they were formed at pressures higher than 20 gigapascals,” explains Nabiei.
“These high pressures indicate that the parent body of this ureilite was a planetary embryo with a size between Mercury and Mars,” he added.
According to the authors, these findings provide evidence of the existence of large protoplanets in our early solar system which constituted the building blocks of the rocky planets that we see in the solar system today, a fact revealed by the study conducted on a fragment of the 2008 Nubian desert asteroid.