Planet Mercury May Be Covered With Diamonds

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Researchers turned to Mercury for the possibility of impact-born diamonds because previous surveys of the planet and molten rock found that the surface may have fragments of graphite, a carbon-rich mineral. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie

Mercury’s Cratered Crust May Hold Glittering Gemstones

by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com

Mercury’s cratered surface may hold precious shards of diamonds. The glittering world may have formed from the billions of years of meteorite impacts that flash-baked Mercury’s crust, reports Nikk Ogasa for Science News.

The new research was presented by Kevin Cannon, a planetary scientist at the Colorado School of Mines, during the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference earlier this month.

Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system and the closest to the sun. Much like Earth’s moon, deep craters riddle Mercury’s surface. In its tumultuous early years, Mercury underwent a violent period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, where the terrestrial planet and the rest of the solar system faced an intense spike in asteroid strikes four billion years ago.

“The pressure wave from asteroids or comets striking the surface at tens of kilometers per second could transform that graphite into diamonds,” said Cannon to Wired’s Ramin Skibba. “You could have a significant amount of diamonds near the surface.”On Earth, diamonds form 100 miles or so deep below the surface of the upper mantle. Under intense pressure and high temperatures, carbon atoms bond together. The gemstones then rise to the surface during volcanic eruptions, Science News reports…

Read the Full Article at SmithsonianMag.com

SOURCESmithsonianMag.com

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