The Planet with Diamond Rain


Have you ever imagined that the sky can rain something other than water? To rain diamonds for example? Of course not; rain has always been associated with water droplets and sometimes snow. As such, we think it is the only kind of rain; however, there are other types of rain we do not know anything about, because they do not fall on our planet.

In fact, this is what scientists have been searching for lately, and was proven through modern discoveries thanks to chemistry; the sky can rain diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter. However, before we know how the sky can rain diamonds, we have to know first how rain is formed.

The Sun's high temperature and wind movement near water surfaces causes the water to evaporate, changing it from liquid state to gaseous state. Clouds form as a result of the accumulation of rain particles around dust particles and volatile gases in the sky; the air currents allow the water droplets to move from one place to another. The accumulation of water particles in the clouds leads to an increase in its weight; as a result, the water particle density becomes greater than that of air, so air cannot carry them and they fall down in the form of rain, in a process known as rain precipitation.

Then, how can the sky rain diamonds?

Some recent studies, with the assistance of chemistry, have assured that there are millions of tons of diamonds in the skies of Saturn and Jupiter. These studies included observing the storms that occur on these two planets, which led to the discovery of the main component in the creation of diamonds; the carbon that was generated as a result of these storms. Where does carbon come from?

Many Solar System planets, especially Saturn and Jupiter, have abundant methane gas on their surface; as a result of thunderstorms, which transform methane gas to its primary components, methane is transformed into non-crystalline carbon and hydrogen. Carbon falls through precipitation and its pressure gradually increases with the increase in the precipitation velocity, which may sometimes reach 1,000 mph. This leads to the arrangement of carbon atoms in a flat crystalline form, making it easy for them to slide over each other, forming graphite, which is used in the manufacture of pencils.

At the depth of about 6,000 km, graphite particles are transformed from the liquid state to the solid state, and continues falling to a depth of 30,000 km and a temperature of more than 4,000 Kelvin. The atmospheric pressure increases to about 10 GPA—the lowest pressure at which the graphite turns to diamonds—graphite is then turned into diamonds. As the temperature and pressure increase, diamonds cannot stay in their solid state, so they are transferred into the liquid state and is preserved in the planet's core. The diameter of the largest diamond can reach one centimeter, this diameter is large enough to decorate rings.

When simulating such conditions inside the laboratory, scientists discovered that the weather conditions on Saturn and Jupiter were sufficient to produce diamonds in the air as well. According to the scientists' calculations and observations, storms can produce about 1,000 tons of diamonds every year, which equals a 30,000 km deep land of diamonds. Scientists also think that the planet's core contains enormous amounts of liquid diamond.

What about other planets?

A group of researchers at Stanford University are working nowadays on simulating similar conditions on glacial planets, such as Uranus and Neptune. Both contain an atmosphere rich in gases such as hydrogen and helium, which helps in forming large quantities of water, ammonia, and hydrocarbons. The latter can be broken down to get methane, which in turn can be broken down into its primary compounds, in addition to producing diamonds. This was exactly the case in the Diamond Rain phenomenon, which occurs under high pressure and high temperature conditions. Although the amount of diamonds produced in the laboratory is about one nanometer in diameter, the team believes that huge amounts of diamonds, possibly millions of carats, are already filling Uranus and Neptune.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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