Diamonds are raining out of Uranus and Neptune

Diamonds are raining out of Uranus and Neptune

Icy Giants of our Solar System experience Diamond rain due to extreme temperature and pressure.

Uranus and Neptune are considered the most mysterious planets of our solar system. From the magnetic poles to the extreme weather conditions, these heavenly bodies are unique in every fashion. Their magnetic poles are at 60o from respective geological poles. Speedy winds and massive storms are associated with them and the proof comes from the images of Neptune taken by Voyager 2.

A storm of the size of the Earth was tracked in those pictures. The amount of carbon content on these planets is also questionable by many astronomers as at least 10% carbon is present in their atmosphere. Similarly, another strange thing that is observed on these icy giants is that their cores are rocky despite the fact that most of their surface is made of gases and fluids.

If all this is not enough to amaze you, the theory suggesting diamond rains on these planets is bound to excite you. The research for this discovery began when some scientists managed to create a liquid diamond in a laboratory experiment.

Excessive amounts of electricity and immense pressure were applied to the diamond to see how it reacts to these extreme conditions. As researchers knew that similar conditions are there in the atmosphere of the outermost planets, they tried to give it a try. Researchers assumed that high-pressure conditions will force the hydrogen and carbon atoms to fuse together and this could lead to a diamond rain.

A team comprising of scientists from Germany, UK, and the US performed this experiment. For recreating the conditions that are found inside these icy giants, Linac Coherent Light Source, one of the brightest sources of X-ray on this planet, was used to create shock waves in plastic. As soon as the diamond melted, the pressure was increased back to the level that is observed inside Neptune’s core. Simultaneously, the temperature was increased to 50,000o F.

As a result, chunks of diamond structures were formed when two shock waves overlapped. These crystals are commonly known as nano-diamonds. Scientists concluded another amazing fact through this experiment that diamond behaves just like water when it comes to melting and freezing.

It seemed as if the research team got more than they bargained for as the lead author, Dominik Kraus was only looking for tiny hints in the data. All the previous attempts were unsuccessful in getting anything noticeable and all the odds were against the researchers. The presence of actual diamonds came out as a surprise for him and the team. He himself acknowledged that in the following words.

It was very surprising that we get such a clear diamond signature and that the diamonds form so quickly. Certainly one of the best moments in my scientific career.”

Building on these results, it was concluded that the diamonds formed on these planets will be many times larger than these small pieces. The estimated weight ranged up to millions of carats. Kraus also stated that this discovery will help the scientists to understand the mysterious source of heat on Neptune. He determined that the gravitational energy of the diamond precipitation could be the answer to this long-lasting mystery. Once we know that diamond rain is possible on these planets, the next question that arises is what it would look like. Kraus himself cleared the air in this context as he said,

It will literally be solid, probably spherical raw diamonds that keep growing while falling downwards towards the cores of Neptune and Uranus. However, the diamonds are not quickly falling in a gaseous atmosphere like rain on Earth but sinking in a very dense and hot liquid that makes up the gigantic ‘ice’ layers inside those planets.

This discovery will prove extremely beneficial for the scientific world as it strives to find the exoplanets. Mass and radius relationships are used for classification of different heavenly bodies found in the universe. For instance, the Earth is made up of high-density material but has a lower radius in comparison to other planets who have a larger radius but are less dense than our planet.

These diamond rains release hydrogen which results in a reduction of the planet’s radius. This piece of information will prove handy in determining the places where life might exist outside our solar system.

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