Geologist Andy Tomkins was on a regular field visit in the North-West African region to categorise meteorites, as one does, when he stumbled upon an incredible discovery. He came across a strange “bended” diamond in a meteorite that he later discovered was lonsdaleite, a rare hexagonal stone from space.
Tomkins, who is a professor at Monash University in Australia, co-wrote a paper on the discovery with Alan Salek, a researcher from RMIT University, Australia, where they revealed that a strange diamond from an ancient dwarf planet has found its way to the Earth’s surface following a collision with a sizeable asteroid 4.5 billion years ago.
Like regular diamonds found on Earth, lonsdaleite is created “from a supercritical fluid at a high temperature and moderate pressure,” according to Tomkins, who also adds, “Later, lonsdaleite was partially replaced by a diamond as the environment cooled and the pressure decreased.”
Both Earth diamonds and lonsdaleite are made out of carbon but while Earth diamonds have a cubic atomic structure, these space diamonds have a hexagonal structure.
Aside from the fact that scientists have discovered an actual diamond from outer space on Earth (an ancient one at that), the discovery is especially exciting for geologists and astronomers as this is the first major discovery of lonsdaleite. Scientists had first discovered bits of the space mineral in 1967, but they were extremely minute, almost 1,000 times smaller than what has been found with this recent discovery.
Any person who has seen even a single Marvel movie would attest to the fact that space rocks, diamonds or otherwise, should be left alone, lest you want to incur the wrath of a space villain. But the scientists who have discovered the rock are optimistic (and smarter) as they feel the creation process of the mineral can be replicated on Earth and be applied to various industries. The unusual hexagonal structure of the diamond could make it much harder than the diamonds originating from Earth.
“Nature has thus provided us with a process to try and replicate in industry,” said Tomkins in a news release, “We think that lonsdaleite could be used to make tiny, ultra-hard machine parts if we can develop an industrial process that promotes replacement of pre-shaped graphite parts by lonsdaleite.”
We’ll just have to wait and see if a giant, purple space villain comes to Earth to look for the diamond.