Gaseous Gems: Jupiter And Saturn May Produce Solid Diamonds

 @TreyeGreen t.green@ibtimes.com
on October 09 2013 10:16 PM
NASA handout image shows Saturn's atmosphere and its rings in a false color composite made from 12 images, captured on January 12, 2011. The mosaic shows the tail of Saturn's huge northern storm
A NASA image shows Saturn's atmosphere and its rings in a false color composite made from 12 images taken with the Cassini spacecraft. The mosaic shows the tail of Saturn's huge northern storm. Reuters

There may be a little more sparkle to Jupiter and Saturn than meets the eye.

According to new research presented at the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Science, it is believed that solid diamonds exist deep within both Jupiter and Saturn, USA Today reports. "We don't want to give people the impression that we have a Titanic-sized diamondberg floating around," said planetary scientist Mona Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering. "We're thinking they're more like something you can hold in your hand."

This is the first evidence presented that suggests Jupiter and Saturn house diamonds. Researchers already confirmed that diamonds could exists on both Uranus and Neptune. The diamonds would only be present in the outer regions of Jupiter and Saturn, though. Temperatures closer to their cores would be so extreme that the diamonds would actually melt into liquid diamond droplets. But the lower temperatures on Neptune and Uranus allow the diamonds to remain in their solid state.

"Diamonds are forever on Uranus and Neptune, but not on Jupiter and Saturn," said Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If diamonds are present on Jupiter and Saturn, they would form from methane gas in a planet's atmosphere. Delitsky and Baines studied storm systems on Saturn, noticing that dark patches formed where storm clouds were once located. These clouds didn't match the color of surrounding clouds and the pair wanted to know why. In a 2009 study, the pair concluded that the patches were likely caused by soot formed when lighting strikes seperate the methane present in the clouds, reports CNN. The researchers now theorize that the downward-traveling soot then turns into graphite that continues sink toward the planet's center until increased temperatures and pressure compress the graphite pieces into solid diamond. The diamonds then continue to float in the planet's ocean composed of helium and hydrogen.

New calculations of the environment inside the planets combined with data detailing how carbon behaves under high temperatures and pressure helped the scientitsts reach gleaming results about Jupiter and Saturn. It's estimated that the diamonds are formed at around 5,000 degrees on Saturn and 7,000 degrees on Jupiter. 

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