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Diamond rain on planets may be more common than it seems

Diamond rain on planets may be more common than it seems

It appears that diamond showers can also occur on gaseous exoplanets. It was already known that this phenomenon could occur on Neptune and perhaps on Uranus, and now a study conducted by researchers at the Stanford Center for Linear Acceleration, at the university of the same name, indicates that the phenomenon occurs under different conditions than previously thought. If this is the case, diamond showers could also occur on Neptunes, which are smaller gas planets.

Rain of diamonds may seem like a rather strange phenomenon, but the study indicates that it is relatively common throughout the universe. In ice giants, the temperature and pressure are so high in their atmosphere that hydrocarbons (such as methane) decompose, allowing carbon atoms to combine with other atoms and form solid diamond particles.

Last year, a study suggested that Neptune might have the ideal conditions for such rain, but now, the new study suggests that the pressure and temperature limits for this to happen are lower than they seem. To reach this conclusion, the researchers simulated diamond formation in the laboratory.

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They observed the emergence of diamonds from a polystyrene layer of hydrocarbons subjected to very high pressures. In this way, the team was able to monitor the process for a longer period than in previous experiments.

The researchers note that although extreme pressure and high temperatures are necessary for diamonds to form, they may not need to be that extreme. This suggests that diamonds could form at much shallower depths, and that the descent of their particles during rainfall would pull in gas and ice, affecting their planets' magnetic fields.

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Neptune and Uranus have asymmetric magnetic fields, and this is what has intrigued scientists. On the other hand, diamond rain could help explain this property: This phenomenon “could lead to movements in the conductive ice found on these planets, affecting the generation of their magnetic fields,” notes Mungo Frost, a physicist and co-author of the study. .

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The article was published with the results of the study in the magazine Nature astronomy.

source: Nature astronomy; via: Slack