Feeds

Diamonds are forever POURING down on Jupiter, Saturn - boffins

It's raining gems, hallelujah, it's raining gems

Security for virtualized datacentres

Storms on Saturn and Jupiter form hailstones of pure diamond, according to a paper published for the 45th meeting of the American Astronomical Association.

Dr Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told the delegates that when huge weather systems on the gas giants create storms, the lightning they generate changes atmospheric methane into carbon.

As this carbon falls towards the planet's surface, it hardens into graphite and then the huge pressures generated by the Solar System's largest planets transform the graphite into diamonds that would be big enough to turn into jewelry.

"The bottom line is that 1,000 tonnes of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn," said Baines, the BBC reports. "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."

It takes around 6,000km of falling for the carbon to complete its transformation into diamond, but as it falls further into the gas giants it doesn't remain in that form, the scientists suggest. Eventually, around 30,000km down, the diamonds would not be able to survive.

"Once you get down to those extreme depths, the pressure and temperature is so hellish, there's no way the diamonds could remain solid," Baines said. "It's very uncertain what happens to carbon down there. Diamonds aren't forever on Saturn and Jupiter. But they are on Uranus and Neptune, which are colder at their cores."

It has already been suggested that both Uranus and Neptune have cores that are either solid diamond or diamond coated. But Baines said that the relatively higher temperatures of Saturn and Jupiter would mean that the carbon could form in vast liquid seas near the planets' cores.

Professor Raymond Jeanloz, who co-wrote the original paper postulating diamonds in the cores of Uranus and Neptune, said that the new paper has merit, though there are still many other factors to consider.

"The idea that there is a depth range within the atmospheres of Jupiter and (even more so) Saturn within which carbon would be stable as diamond does seem sensible," Jeanloz said. "And given the large sizes of these planets, the amount of carbon (therefore diamond) that may be present is hardly negligible." ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.