Part 2: Diamonds Are Forever

Fact: It can rain diamonds.

But don’t get overexcited, its not anywhere close; this phenomenon is only known to occur on planets such as Neptune and Uranus, known as ‘gas giants’.

Such planets have high concentrations of methane in their atmosphere, and massive lightning storms ignite the methane to produce burnt carbon, or soot, the raw building block of diamonds. (Disclaimer: do not attempt to make diamonds by lighting your farts – trust me, it won’t work). 

Normally (on Earth) carbon only forms diamond deep underground under high pressure and temperature, and the process takes millions of years.However, the atmospheric temperatures and pressures on gas giants dwarf those on earth, and so as the carbon soot falls to the surface it is rapidly compressed first into graphite, and then into diamonds, most of which are estimated to be up to a centimetre in diameter. Some scientists have even proposed there might be giant ‘diamondbergs’ floating around in Saturn’s atmosphere just waiting to be mined.

So there you have it: money might not grow on trees, but it does literally fall from the sky.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license


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