A meteorite that landed in the Nubian Desert of Sudan almost a decade ago appears to be stirring up quite a bit of attention in the scientific community this week.
Image Credit: Peter Jenniskens/SETI/NASA
Traces of extraterrestrial diamond crystal found within the space rock have unknown origins, but a study published in the journal Nature Communications this week by a team of Switzerland-based researchers suggests how they could be remnants of a protoplanet from the early solar system.
The team reportedly reached this conclusion after studying the meteorite with high-resolution observation technique called transmission electron microscopy; this allowed them to discern the circumstances in which the crystals formed, and the results don’t seem to disappoint.
Image Credit: Dr. F. Nabiei/Dr. E. Oveisi, EPFL, Switzerland
The crystals’ characteristics exhibit evidence for forming at high pressures that exceeded 20 gigapascals. That said, they would have stemmed from the formation of a rocky protoplanet sporting a size between that of Earth’s Moon and the planet Mars.
Researchers have long theorized about protoplanetary presence in the early solar system, but most theories have relied on computer models. Proving them with concrete evidence isn’t easy, but the discoveries made within this particular space rock have the potential to set a precedent in that regard.
The few small pieces of diamond crystal found within this meteorite aren’t much to go by, but follow-up research could provide additional clues about what the early solar system may have really been like.