Space Gems: Why is it raining diamonds on some planets?

Diamonds that fell on icy planets could hold the key to understanding their magnetic fields (NASA)

Not all planets have rain like Earth. EarthIn fact, this is the only time this happens because it has liquid water on a surface. There have already been records that it rains on some planets gems. This is the case with Neptune And Uranuswhere there is a large amount methane which in turn contains carbon. When this substance is crushed by the enormous pressure of it atmospherethey form diamonds which ultimately falls as precipitation.

An international team of researchers led by specialists from US Department of Energy SLAC National Accelerator Laboratoryfrom California, has gained new insight into the formation of diamond flows on icy planets such as Neptune and Uranus using the European X-ray laser XFEL in Schönefeld. Results that were published in the journal Nature Astronomyprovide clues about the formation of these planets’ complex magnetic fields.

In previous work with X-ray lasers, scientists found that diamonds must be formed from compounds carbon inside large gas planets due to the high pressure that prevails there.

Then they would sink even deeper inside, like a rain of precious stones from the upper layers. So, When it is very hot and the atmosphere is very thick, the pressure and high temperatures form diamonds that accumulate. They get even heavier and it rains.

Diamond rain forms at lower pressures and temperatures than predicted in gas giants

A new experiment at the European XFEL shows that diamond-shaped formation begins from carbon compounds pressure and temperature lower than expected. For gaseous planets, this means that diamond rain is already forming at shallower depths than previously thought and may therefore have a stronger influence on the formation of magnetic fields.

In addition, diamond rain is also possible on gaseous planets smaller than Neptune and Uranus, called “mini-Neptunes” These stars do not exist in our solar system, but they are registered as exoplanets beyond it.

On its way from the outer layers of planets to the inner layers, diamond rain can transport gas and ice, causing flows of energy-conducting frozen water. The currents of this type of conducting fluid act as a kind of dynamo through which the magnetic fields of the planets are formed.

The formation of diamonds on mini-Neptunes raises fascinating questions about worlds beyond our system.

Diamond rain likely influences the formation of complex magnetic fields Uranus and Neptune, experts concluded in their document.

The research team used plastic film made from polystyrene, a hydrocarbon compound, as a carbon source. Diamonds are formed from a sheet under very high pressure, a process that occurs in the same way as inside planets, and which can be replicated in Europe’s XFEL.

Using diamond cells and lasers, scientists created the high pressures and temperatures of more than 2,200 degrees Celsius that prevail inside frozen gas giants. The die cells work like a mini-vice in which the sample is clamped between two diamonds. Using XFEL X-ray pulses, the timing, conditions and sequence of diamond formation in the die cell can be accurately observed.

The international working group also included scientists from the European XFEL, the German research centers DESY in Hamburg and the Helmholtz Center in Dresden-Rossendorf, as well as other research institutes and universities from different countries. A significant contribution to this work was made by the European XFEL user consortium HIBEF, which includes the research centers HZDR and DESY.

* Mungo Frost is a research scientist in the High Energy Density Research Division at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, USA.

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