It’s raining diamonds. Unfortunately, not on Earth.
Experts describe the diamond precipitation as the most common in the Solar System. In fact, if people could live on either Saturn or Jupiter, potential bling could literally rain down on them constantly. Some of these sparkly hailstones are as large as a centimeter in diameter, making perfect ring toppers!
At the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, Dr Kevin Baines made the announcement that around a thousand tons of diamonds are being created on Saturn every year. He and co-author Mona Delitsky analyzed Saturn and Jupiter’s interior pressure predictions and current temperatures, and studied new information about carbon’s behavior given these planetary conditions.
“It all begins in the upper atmosphere, in the thunderstorm alleys, where lightning turns methane into soot,” explained Dr. Baines. “As the soot falls, the pressure on it increases, and it turns to graphite – the sheet-like form of carbon you find in pencils.”
When these graphite chunks hit a depth of 6000 km while falling, they harden and turn into diamonds. However, once they go into a depth of 2.5 Earth spans (roughly 30000 km), even the toughest diamond cannot remain solid given the extremely high temperature and pressure. Dr. Baines thinks that the diamond hail turns into a rain of liquid carbon.
These studies have yet to be reviewed thoroughly, but they are already being questioned by other scientists. Though there is acknowledgment on the possibility of diamond precipitation, critics point out that Dr. Baines and Ms. Delitsky may have focused on pure carbon data instead of considering the mixture of carbon, hydrogen, and helium over these planets, and how they can affect the formation of diamonds.
The worst news: even if it is true that diamonds fall through the upper atmosphere of these gas giants, it would be cost-prohibitive to try and harvest them. Numerous tech blogs have posed the question following the release of Dr. Baines’s research, and all of them have reached the same conclusion. We probably won’t be seeing any saturnal diamonds on Earth until space travel becomes less costly. Brilliance will just have to keep finding them the old-fashioned way.