It’s Raining Diamonds Inside Neptune And Uranus, New Study Says
A lab experiment modeled off conditions on the two planets showed the high pressure underground likely produces diamonds that fall to the planets' cores.
Being the most outer planets in our solar system, Neptune and Uranus have often been pushed to the wayside — at least when the latter isn’t mentioned as the butt of a joke.
But a new study by scientists has put a glamorous spin on these forgotten blue giants: forecasts of diamonds underneath their planetary surfaces.
According to Science Alert researchers conducted a laboratory experiment that suggested a remarkable chemical process likely takes place deep inside the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus. The new study was published in the journal Nature in May 2020.
Based on data gathered about these planets, scientists know that Neptune and Uranus both possess extreme environmental conditions thousands of miles below their surfaces, where it can reach a heat of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit and severe pressure levels, despite their frigid atmospheres which have earned them the nickname “ice giants.”
A team of international scientists, including researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, conducted an experiment to closely mimic the interior conditions of the planets and establish what goes on inside them.
Given the extremely high pressure inside both planets, the group’s working hypothesis was that the pressure was strong enough to split apart the hydrocarbon compounds inside the planets into their smallest forms, which would then harden the carbon into diamonds.
So, using an experimental technique never used before, they decided to test out the diamond rain theory. Previously, researchers had used SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser so they could get an exact measurement on the creation of “warm dense matter” which is a high-pressure, high-temperature mix that scientists believed was at the core of ice giants like Neptune and Uranus.
Additionally, researchers had also used a technique called “X-ray diffraction” which takes “a series of snapshots of how samples respond to laser-produced shock waves that mimic the extreme conditions found in other planets.” This method worked very well with crystal samples but was not appropriate to examine non-crystals which possess more haphazard structures.