Fragments of a meteorite that fell to Earth about a decade ago provide compelling evidence of a lost planet that once roamed our solar system, according to a study published Tuesday.
Researchers from Switzerland, France and Germany examined diamonds found inside the Almahata Sitta meteorite and concluded they were most likely formed by a proto-planet at least 4.55 billion years ago.
The diamonds in the meteorite, which crashed in Sudan’s Nubian Desert in October 2008, have tiny crystals inside them that would have required great pressure to form, said one of the study’s co-authors, Philippe Gillet.
“We demonstrate that these large diamonds cannot be the result of a shock but rather of growth that has taken place within a planet,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Switzerland.
Gillet, a planetary scientist at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, said researchers calculated a pressure of 200,000 bar (2.9 million psi) would be needed to form such diamonds, suggesting the mystery planet was as least as big as Mercury, possibly even Mars.