According to American researchers, diamonds the size of hail may be raining down to the cores of Jupiter and Saturn. An artist’s conception of a robotic craft plucking diamonds from an alien planet. Image © Michael Carroll / Alien Sea
The research, being presented at the Division for Planetary Sciences conference this week in Denver, claims that diamonds are formed by lightning storms which turn methane into carbon.
This carbon hardens into pieces and as the diamonds fall, the growing pressures heat the gems into liquid diamond.
Kevin Baines, a planetary scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains:
“It all begins in the upper atmosphere, in the thunderstorm alleys, where lightning turns methane into soot.
As the soot falls, the pressure on it increases. And after about 1,000 miles it turns to graphite – the sheet-like form of carbon you find in pencils.
By a depth of 6,000km, these chunks of falling graphite toughen into diamonds – strong and unreactive.
These continue to fall for another 30,000km – “about two-and-a-half Earth-spans.
Once you get down to those extreme depths, the pressure and temperature is so hellish, there’s no way the diamonds could remain solid.
It’s very uncertain what happens to carbon down there.”