It’s raining diamonds! Well, it’s raining diamonds on other planets at least, including some in our Solar System. And scientists recently discovered that the conditions needed to create this wild weather are not as rare as they previously thought. In order for it to rain diamonds, a planet’s atmosphere must include hydrogen and carbon under high pressure. The team showed that it can also form in the presence of oxygen and lower pressures. So drizzles of diamonds, which can be millions of carats in size, are possible on more exoplanets throughout the universe. If they sink towards the planet’s core, they could even form a diamond layer hidden below the planet’s atmosphere.
The scientists used PET plastic to test their theory. PET is in widespread use as food and drink packaging here on Earth. It contains hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. By hitting it with a laser and watching it via X-ray, the scientists could see diamonds forming. This could lead to a way to create nanodiamonds, used in medical sensors and other devices, in a controlled lab environment.
The team also formed a version of water that was only recently discovered, called superionic water. Water has a lot more than the three forms we usually think of: solid, liquid, gas. This is actually the 18th form of water and is a hot, black ice. The peer-reviewed journal Science Advances published the results, which we saw on Space.com.
A phenomenon previously thought to only occur on hot gas giants like Saturn and Jupiter could very well be happening on many more worlds. NASA’s upcoming plans to probe Uranus could provide more information about diamond rain on ice giants like Neptune and others throughout the universe.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.