It appears that diamonds can form at lower temperatures and pressures than previously thought. It may seem surreal, but diamond showers may be relatively common in the universe.
Diamonds are very rare on Earth, and it is no coincidence that they are so valuable. As a result of thousands of years and tremendous pressure, the carbon structure is rearranged and highly resistant gemstones are created. But like this IFL Science The article reveals that on icy giant planets like Uranus and Neptune, diamonds likely actually fall through the atmosphere.
Diamonds can be created in a different way than we thought until now
Now, laboratory experiments suggest that spark precipitation occurs at lower temperatures and pressures than previously thought, so it may become more common not only in the solar system, but also in other parts of the universe. This may also play a role in influencing the magnetic fields of these planets.
We can't fly into the deep layers of the atmosphere, where diamonds form, but researchers can create similar conditions in the laboratory. With the help of a diamond anvil, the polystyrene film was subjected to incredible pressure. The wafer was then bombarded with high-energy X-rays, heating the sample to more than 2,200 degrees Celsius, and diamonds began to form.
The team was also able to conduct experiments over a longer period of time and also examine how carbon compounds react in the presence of oxygen. They saw that these diamonds could form at lower temperatures and pressures, meaning they spend more time in the planet's atmosphere before descending deeper.
Diamonds can also be affected by other factors
And it's not just about rainfall. The magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune are not symmetrical like Earth's. This asymmetry is thought to be caused by the different arrangement of layers deep within the planet. The presence of falling diamonds, carrying gases and ice with them, can move these layers, creating currents and possibly driving magnetic fields.
“Diamond rain on icy planets is an interesting puzzle for us to solve,” study lead author Mungo Frost, a SLAC scientist, said in a statement. “It provides an internal source of heating and transports carbon deep into the planets, which could have major effects on their properties and composition. It can initiate movements within the conductive ice found on these planets, affecting the generation of their magnetic fields.”
Since the study shows that lower temperatures and pressures are needed for diamond showers to form, this means that smaller worlds – called mini-Neptunes – are likely to drop diamonds. Directly observing and understanding our ice giant neighbors in the laboratory opens the door to understanding countless worlds out there.
“This pioneering discovery not only deepens our understanding of our local icy planets, but also informs our understanding of similar processes on exoplanets outside the solar system,” said Siegfried Glenzer, director of SLAC's High Energy Density Division.