The universe is a lot cooler and fascinating than any of us would have ever imagined. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you this – it rains diamonds on Uranus and Neptune and those icy giants could be full of huge diamonds, like solid diamonds! Tell me now?
Did you ever wish and fantasize about diamonds raining from the sky? Well, you may be interested in visiting Uranus and Neptune because those two icy planets of our solar system actually have diamonds raining from the sky. The phenomenon was assumed to be present since decades, but there was no actual proof – until now. A team of researchers of Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory finally replicated the exact same process that happens on those two icy planets, right here on Earth.
Using an X-ray free-electron laser called Linac Coherent Light Source or LCLS, they were able to recreate the process. The LCLS produces ultra-fast X-ray pulses—as in a million-billionths of a second—that let the team monitor the process with unreal precision down to an atomic scale. Polystyrene foam was used because hydrogen and carbon are elements in polystyrene that are also found everywhere inside Neptune and Uranus in the form of methane. With four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom, atmospheric methane molecules in these planets were thought to form hydrocarbon chains which the right temperature and pressure would transform into diamonds. Turns out the theory was right on!
The experiment conducted lasted just for a fraction of a second, but the diamonds are no bigger than a nanometre length – making the entire diamond rain thing a lot let glamorous, but that is not what the point is! The experiment proved that precious stones actually rained on Uranus and Neptune. And because those planets are not short of pressure, it is believed that the pressure can squeeze those tiny diamonds so hard that they could be a lot bigger than we think. The biggest diamond could weigh a million karats or hundreds and thousands of kilograms – it is a crazy, crazy universe!