Feeds

Diamonds are forever POURING down on Jupiter, Saturn - boffins

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

Top three mobile application threats

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." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.