The small town of Nördlingen in Bavaria, Germany, population approximately 24,000, is unique: all its structures – from a medieval church to hundreds of homes and shops – are embedded with millions of microscopic diamonds.
According to a piece on the Smithsonian website, the tiny diamonds are a result of an asteroid which struck this area of Bavaria about 15 million years ago. When the asteroid hit the Earth, the force caused graphite-bearing gneiss rocks in the region to form diamonds due to the immense pressure.
The impact left behind the Nördlingen Ries (or Ries crater) – a massive depression stretching nine miles, on which Nördlingen sits today. According to Gisela Pösges, a geologist and deputy director of the Ries Crater Museum in Nördlingen who is quoted in the piece, the asteroid is presumed to have weighed three billion tons and was of a similar size to the town of Nördlingen, about one kilometer (less than three-quarters of a mile) across.
When people moved to the area, they began constructing the town from rocks that were in the area. “Our church, St. Georgs, is made of suevite [and contains] about 5,000 carats of diamonds,” says Pösges. “but they’re so tiny – the [largest] ones are 0.3 mm – that they have no economic value, only scientific value. You can observe the diamonds only with a microscope”.
Today, visitors come from all over the world to marvel at Nördlingen. The Nördlingen’s Ries Crater Museum regularly holds guided tours of the town, with specimens on display from the Ries crater and other craters from around the world – and the galaxy…