Washington-Diamonds that are the right size to have been worn by stars of the Silver Screen could rain down on Saturn and Jupiter, US scientists have calculated.
New atmospheric data for the gas giants indicates that carbon is abundant in its dazzling crystal form, they say. Lightning storms turn methane into soot (carbon) which as it falls hardens into chunks of graphite and then diamond.
These diamond “hail stones” eventually melt into a liquid sea in the planets’ hot cores, they told a conference. The biggest diamonds would likely be about a centimetre in diameter - “big enough to put on a ring, although of course they would be uncut,” says Dr Kevin Baines, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He added they would be of a size that the late film actress Elizabeth Taylor would have been “proud to wear”. “The bottom line is that 1,000 tonnes of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn. People ask me - how can you really tell? Because there’s no way you can go and observe it. It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we’re pretty certain.”
Baines presented his unpublished findings at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Denver, Colorado, alongside his co-author Mona Delitsky, from California Speciality Engineering.
Uranus and Neptune have long been thought to harbour gemstones. But Saturn and Jupiter were not thought to have suitable atmospheres. Baines and Delitsky analysed the latest temperature and pressure predictions for the planets’ interiors, as well as new data on how carbon behaves in different conditions. They concluded that stable crystals of diamond will “hail down over a huge region” of Saturn in particular.