It rains diamonds on Uranus and Neptune

Uranus and Neptune are not as well known and observed as their gas giant neighbours Saturn And Jupiter. However, perhaps hidden under the outer layers of these planets is a constant shower of diamonds. At least, that’s what scientists have shown.

This theory is not new. It was first released before Voyager 2 – a space probe It was launched in 1977– Don’t fly over them. This is the last time the data was collected from these two worlds. So how did this theory appear and how did scientists confirm it?

pressure story

Uranus and Neptune are mainly composed of water, ammonia, and methane. The particles astronomers usually call “ice” because when the planets formed, these elements were most likely in solid form. What scientists also know is that when we plunge into a planet, the material warms up and becomes denser.

Thanks to mathematical models, the researchers concluded that temperatures in the deepest regions of Uranus and Neptune are about 7,000 K (or 6,727 degrees Celsius) and that pressures are six million times higher than those in Earth’s atmosphere. In the outer layers, temperatures are slightly cooler and pressures are less intense (1,727 °C and 200,000 times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure).

It is also known that under great pressure, methane molecules can disintegrate and release carbon. employment Uranus and Neptune, these carbon-emitted elements clump together and form long chains that intertwine together and in turn form diamond. These diamonds then fall into the deeper layers of the mantle where they evaporate due to heat and then rise to the surface and repeat the cycle. It is “diamond rain”.

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To confirm this theory, scientists had two options: send a spacecraft to Uranus or Neptune, or conduct laboratory experiments. Requiring economic constraints, the second option was preferred. Thus, an experiment was performed with polystyrene briefly subjected to the temperatures and pressures of these two worlds. This plastic is not present in these ice giants, but it is easier to work with and – thankfully – behaves similarly to methane. This experiment resulted in the formation of nanodiamonds, thus validating the mathematical models.

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