BEACON TRANSCRIPT – An international team of researchers has been studying a phenomenon believed to be happening on Uranus and Neptune and unexpected here on Earth: diamond rains. Scientists have been wondering what could be causing this event, and believe to now know the reason.
HZDR or Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf scientists collaborated with United States and Germany researchers for the study.
It’s Raining Diamonds Because of the Extreme Temperatures
Neptune and Uranus are both ice giant planets. They are considered to have a rocky core which is surrounded by a water, ammonia, and methane ices-based mantle. The atmosphere of such planets consists of helium, hydrogen, and methane gas, and also a cloud top and upper atmosphere.
According to the recent study, this mix, combined with extreme temperatures and severe pressure is the cause behind the diamond rains. The team states that the severe pressure conditions, coupled with the other elements, can lead to the breaking of the atmospheric hydrocarbons. In turn, this leads to the formation of diamonds, which then fall towards the surface of the planet in a rain-like fashion.
“These diamonds will sink down because they are heavier than the surrounding medium and when they sink down there will be friction with the surrounding medium,” stated the lead author, HZDR’s Dominik Kraus.
He then continued by pointing out that, at some point, the diamond will stop as it reaches the core. All this process also reportedly generates heat. In turn, this might help explain why ice giants generate more heat than expected.
The team conducted its study with some help from polystyrene. When heated by high-powered optical lasers, these were able to reproduce the diamond rains. In turn, this allowed the researchers to study the phenomenon in the lab.
According to the team, this may also help better understand the conditions on Uranus or Neptune-like planets.
The team used polystyrene because, although it can’t be found on the ice giants, it’s a useful chemical stand-in for the methane compounds which are in abundance on such planets.
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