Feeds

Diamonds are forever POURING down on Jupiter, Saturn - boffins

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

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
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?