TC3 was a long lost planet of the solar system

TC3 was a long lost planet of the solar system

TC3 was a long lost planet of the solar system

Debris from a meteorite that plunged to Earth in 2008 offers strong evidence of a lost planet that once drifted through our solar system, a new study has found.

There are many mysteries about the formation of planets, but based on our own Solar System and studying the growing number of exoplanets, we more or less know how it might work. Almahata Sitta is the first case in which meteorites have been recovered from a known asteroid that was tracked in space and during its subsequent collision with our planet.

These rocks are scattered all over the Nubian desert of northern Sudan when the asteroid 2008 TC3 came in contact with the earth atmosphere. Because diamonds are forged at vast pressures and temperatures, typically deep inside the planet, the various materials that get trapped inside are quite hard to get a hold of at the surface - and diamonds can preserve them for billions of years. However, this specific proto-planet has been destroyed in the early solar system and that is unique so far.

It is thought that these tiny diamonds can form in three ways: enormous pressure shockwaves from high-energy collisions between the meteorite "parent body" and other space objects; deposition by chemical vapor; or the "normal" static pressure inside the parent body, like most diamonds on Earth. This is an extremely high form of pressure that humans can generate with certain explosives.

Dr Nabiei added: "Planetary formation models show terrestrial planets are formed by the accretion of tens of Moon to Mars-sized planetary embryos through energetic giant impacts".

According to the researchers, this means the diamonds formed at the extreme pressure of 20 gigapascals, about 180 times as crushing as the pressure found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in Earth's oceans.

His team reached this conclusion by examining the tiny diamonds found in the Almahata Sitta meteorites to determined their composition.

"What we're claiming here is that we have in our hands a remnant of this first generation of planets that are missing today because they were destroyed or incorporated in a bigger planet", Philippe Gillet, one of the co-authors of the work, told the Associated Press. The stony meteorite, called asteroid 2008 TC 3, plunged through the atmosphere and exploded, and pieces rained on the Nubian Desert in Africa.

A microscope's view of a diamond-encrusted meteorite. According to a 2015 study, however, the diamonds in Almahata Sitta are much, much larger and were likely not produced by shock waves.

Such planetary embryos got ejected from the solar system and either became rogue planets or smashed together.

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