Have you heard the phrase raining cats and dogs? On other planets, the phrase would be raining diamonds.Sadly, this miracle is not happening on Earth but over 1.2 billion km away, on the outer rim of the solar system.
There are 4 planets in our solar system alone where Diamond Rain is made.
Storms happen in clouds of methane molecules. The Lightning strikes the Methane, causing Carbon atoms to disassociate from their chemical bonds. When they collect in the air, the soot sinks into the lower atmosphere. Under the effect of Gravity, it will be put under more and more pressure. That pressure is what makes the Carbon into Graphite and then again into Diamond.
The chemistry is actually quite simple. Jupiter and Saturn's atmosphere is mostly made of Methane(Hydrogen and Methane). When a storm happens, the lightning strikes the methane, producing pure hydrogen and burnt carbon(soot). As the soot falls towards the planet, they are under more pressure due to the laws of Gravity, so they clump together to form graphite. As the even more pressure builds up, the graphite is then compressed into pure Diamond.
The biggest diamonds is predicted to be about a centimetre in diameter - "big enough to put on a ring" says Dr Kevin Baines, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
On Uranus and Neptune, there could be a cloud layer where a sea of hot methane forms which then separates in a high-pressure environment causing the resulting carbon to squeeze into Diamond.
Scientists always thought about the effects of having large amounts of Hydrogen and Methane and whether they are ideal for the formation of Diamonds.
Using a tool called the Matter in Extreme Condition instrument, the scientists shocked a thin hydrocarbon polymer sheet with a laser blast which produced pressures of up to 150 Gigapascals. That laser heated the material to about 6,000 Kelvin, which is very very hot. To put it into perspective, the sun is approximately 5788 Kelvin. It breaks up into hydrogen and carbon atoms which are then compressed. For an incredibly short time, this causes nanodiamonds to form.
“If the temperature is high enough close to the core, it could also be ‘oceans of liquid carbon’ with gigantic ‘diamond icebergs, swimming on top of it,” said Kraus. However, most theories suggest that diamond would remain solid, at least on Neptune and Uranus.
Does this do us any good? No. It is very hard to get to any of the planets mentioned above. To get down and retrieve the diamonds is even harder. The pressure there is about 100,000 times what it is at sea level on Earth, which will instantly crush any human or spaceship sent to collect the Diamonds.
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