Researchers believe diamond rain falls on Saturn and Jupiter

Researchers believe diamond rain falls on Saturn and Jupiter

Denver : CO : USA | Oct 14, 2013 at 2:05 PM PDT
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The Outer Gas Giant Planets - P1

While here on Earth we may be used to the expression "raining cats and dogs," elsewhere in the solar system such expressions may not hold true, as rain of a very different kind occurs. The latest research suggests that on planets like Saturn and Jupiter, diamonds literally rain down from the sky.

Gas giants like Saturn and Jupiter have quite exotic compositions and conditions, leading to very peculiar occurrences. In the case of Saturn for example, its characteristic "Red Spot" is believed to be a continent-wide weather system, with raging winds and hurricane-like behavior. Now scientists have calculated that the gas giants in question appear to have "abundant" amounts of diamonds in their atmosphere, raining down very often.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, presented their findings at the Annual Meeting for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Denver. They told the conference that because of the violent and exotic conditions on the gas giants, methane in the atmosphere is turned into soot, which, as it falls, begins to be acted upon by pressure, which then turns it into graphite and then diamonds.

Dr. Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said, “The bottom line is that 1,000 tonnes of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn. People ask me - how can you really tell? Because there's no way you can go and observe it. It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we're pretty certain," while adding that the diamonds themselves would be around a centimeter in diameter, “big enough to put on a ring, although of course they would be uncut."

For their research, the scientists took to studying the different temperature and pressure conditions on the planets as well as how carbon acts under these conditions. Saturn and Jupiter were previously believed not to support the kind of conditions to produce such gemstones, with Neptune and Uranus having more suitable conditions, but the new research now suggests otherwise.

Dr. Baines further explained that the diamond formation would most likely be in the upper atmosphere, in the “thunderstorm alleys,” where lighting turns the methane into soot. As the soot begins to fall, around 1,000 miles or so, it begins to turn into graphite, which, after falling another 6,000 km, turns into diamonds. After this point, the diamonds then fall another 30,000 km, with Dr. Baines saying, "Once you get down to those extreme depths, the pressure and temperature is so hellish, there's no way the diamonds could remain solid. It's very uncertain what happens to carbon down there,” adding that there could likely be a “sea” of liquid carbon.


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Saturn with its ring is shown
arkar is based in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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