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Space rocks: Research suggests Jupiter and Saturn could be awash with diamonds

Creative Commons photo courtesy: Kim Alainz/Flickr

Creative Commons photo courtesy: Kim Alainz/Flickr

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    Thursday, October 10, 2013, 7:48 PM -

    Are Jupiter and Saturn brimming with diamonds?

    It's a definite possibility, two planetary scientists say.

    Earlier this week, Mona Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering and Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that the precious gem may rain down on Saturn and Jupiter.

    The theory, which was unveiled at the annual meeting for the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, states that pressure within the planets' atmospheres could be turning carbon into diamond.

    Delitsky and Baines believe there could be fragments of the gem floating in the atmosphere of both planets.

    According to the researchers, Jupiter and Saturn's diamonds formed from none other than methane found in their atmosphere. During storms, lightning blasts apart some of the methane on both planets, creating fluffy, black soot, akin to that found floating out of a fireplace. 

    From there, the soot turns into graphite (a form of carbon used in pencils). As the bits of graphite make their way toward the centre of the planet, growing pressure and temperature squeezes and heats them into little diamonds. These newly formed rocks then float in a sea of helium and hydrogen.

    "We don't want to give people the impression that we have a Titanic-sized diamondberg floating around," said Delitsky. "We're thinking they're more like something you can hold in your hand."

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    Sink lower, and extreme heat could be liquefying the rocks, resulting in 'diamond rain'.

    Scientists add that these diamonds differ from those found on Earth. The transformation takes place at about 5000 degrees on Saturn and nearly 7000 on Jupiter -- much hotter than the temperatures at which diamonds are produced on Earth.

    The theory that diamond rain -- and liquid diamond seas -- exist in our solar system is nothing new.

    Many believe diamonds are floating about on Neptune and Uranus, but this is the first time scientists have suggested the presence of diamonds on Jupiter and Saturn.

    It was previously believed that the two planets were too cold to allow for the formation of diamonds.

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