Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cloudy with a chance of diamonds

Odd, what we consider something rare and beautiful, for Saturn and Jupiter may be common-place. Scientists have hypothesized that diamonds may fall from the sky as rain to create oceans. Got your attention? Sure got mine.

Apparently on both planets as powerful lightning storms cause particles of Carbon to form on the way through all the gases, it is under tremendous pressure which, as you know, causes diamonds to form. These dense chunks of diamonds then in Jupiter’s case become liquid. Jupiter gets hot enough to turn the diamonds to liquid in its interior. Saturn has regions where temperature & pressure that would allow the solid diamond to survive but it also has the reverse. With time, the diamond oceans become stable. FYI- the main difference, besides in value, between Carbon and Diamonds is that the atoms in a diamond are formed in a diamond shaped crystal lattice. Obtaining this model requires intense and constant pressure.

 Two years ago, if you recall, I wrote of a planet that was a good deal larger than Earth (about 5 times) and was formed almost entirely of diamond.  And 40 light years from here there exists another planet with a diamond core, or at least that is the hypothesis. But before you go planning a mining trip, you can probably find such a planet closer to Earth. Uranus and Neptune are considered possibilities for diamond cores.

Jupiter is THOUGHT to have a dense core of a mixture of elements, but its thick cloud cover prevents us from being sure. Numerous probes beginning with Pioneer where we obtained the first close image of Jupiter and his moons as well as noting that the radiation fields were stronger than expected; next Voyager improved our understanding of the Galilean moons, the Great Red Spot (which had changed color from six year earlier) ; then the Ulysses solar probe managed in a flyby maneuver prior to attain a polar orbit around the Sun studied its magnetosphere. Then there were the Cassini & later the New Horizons. Both were en route to different destinations, one Saturn the other Pluto. Cassini wasn’t close enough to provide much, but the New Horizons was using Jupiter for a gravity assist and was able to get details of the four Galilean moons and even some observations about two additional moons, Himalia & Elara. Juno which left under gravity assist yesterday though launched a couple year back will soon give us more details about the atmosphere of Jupiter and who know what images she’ll pick up.

Gas giants are not, though the name might suggest it, all gas. A gas giant actually refers to a rather large panet with an extremely thick atmosphere of hydrogen or perhaps helium with a dense core that may be molten rocky elements or perhaps it dissolved all together depending on the temperature of the planet.

So, an ocean of diamonds. Hmmm. Is that even become possible? Yes. But diamonds or rather carbon has a strange approach to the phases. It goes through other reactions before even reaching the melting phase. First it reacts with other carbon compounds or goes through the solid state conversion. (remember – raining carbon, goes through change of substance – then liquid )

Might be the first time we enjoyed the rain!

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