It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune



It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune

 August 25

An image of Neptune taken by Voyager 2. (NASA/JPL)

Consider this your daily reminder that the solar system is even more awesomely bonkers than you realized: On Uranus and Neptune, scientists forecast rain storms of solid diamonds.

The gems form in the hydrocarbon-rich oceans of slush that swath the gas giants’ solid cores. Scientists have long speculated that the extreme pressures in this region might split those molecules into atoms of hydrogen and carbon, the latter of which then crystallize to form diamonds. These diamonds were thought to sink like rain through the ocean until they hit the solid core.

But no one could prove that this would really work — until now. In a study published this week in the journal Nature Astrophysics, researchers say they were able to produce this “diamond rain” using fancy plastic and high-powered lasers.

“Previously, researchers could only assume that the diamonds had formed,” lead author Dominik Kraus, a physicist at the Helmholtz Dresden-Rossendorf research center in Germany, told the magazine Cosmos. “When I saw the results of this latest experiment, it was one of the best moments of my scientific career.”

Scientists have tried to do this before — who wouldn’t want to make it rain precious stones? — but they ran into problems mimicking the incredible pressures near the gas planet’s cores. Neptune and Uranus are 17 and 15 times the mass of Earth, respectively, and their oceans are crushed by pressures millions of times more intense than the air pressure at Earth’s sea level.

 Play Video 2:10
Dear Science: Where do old spacecraft go when they die?
Space agencies have two options for satellites, rovers and probes whose missions have come to the end. The Post’s Sarah Kaplan tells you more. (Monica Akhtar, Sarah Kaplan/The Washington Post)

To match this absurd intensity, Kraus and his colleagues used two types of laser — one optical, one X-ray — to produce shock waves. These waves were then driven through a block of polystyrene — a type of plastic composed of hydrogen and carbon, just like Uranus and Neptune’s oceans.

“The first smaller, slower wave is overtaken by another stronger second wave,” Kraus explained in a news release. The combination of the two waves squeezed the plastic to 150 gigapascals of pressure — more than exists at the bottom of Earth’s mantle — and heated it to more than 8,500 degrees. At that moment, the diamonds began to form.

The process lasted only a fraction of a second, and the diamonds were no bigger than a nanometer in length. But Kraus and his colleagues believe that the diamonds that develop on Uranus and Neptune are probably bigger and longer-lasting.

“In the planet you have years, millions of years, and a long range of conditions where this actually can happen,” co-author Dirk Gericke, of the University of Warwick, told the Guardian.

The results will be useful not just for understanding the outer gas giants but for improving the process of making diamonds. Most lab-grown stones are produced via a blasting process, but Kraus and Gericke suggest that using lasers may make production cleaner and easier to control. Those stones can then be used for semiconductors, drill bits and solar panels, not to mention instruments that mimic the conditions inside the very gas planets that inspired this research.

 Play Video 2:09
Satellite to test space garbage collection methods
A satellite designed to test various technologies that may help tackle the growing problem of space junk is undergoing final pre-flight testing. (Reuters)

Read more:

Science may have solved the 150-year-old mystery of a sunken Civil War submarine

Trump’s science envoy quits in scathing letter with an embedded message: I-M-P-E-A-C-H

The survival of a Mars mission could depend on astronaut urine

The eclipse capital of the U.S. is over the moon for Monday’s solar event

3 thoughts on “It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune

    1. Michael I am glad that you liked their article and I thank you for the kindness of reblogging it for them. I hope you have a great week, stay safe, God bless.—ted


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Get up & GO



Decades of her words.

Pics and Posts

Goodies from my mailbox and camera...


Health, Ideas, style, social, awareness.

Love Back Dua

Paak Islamic Dua To Get Your Lost Love back and Daily Life Problems

existential ergonomics

sustainable systems & storytelling

Joseph Iskarius

Today is a good day. Let's make the best of it.

Dina Al-Mahdy

A Journey in My World

Knight of the Heart (knightsheart)

Poetry, Short stories, Blog, Titan

%d bloggers like this: