Beneath the frigid hydrogen and helium atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus lies a liquid mantle rich in water, ammonia, methane and perhaps something much brighter: diamond. Scientists have long suspected that these ultra-hard gemstones could fall from the outer layers of ice giants and penetrate their rocky cores.
However, the interior of Uranus may not be as vivid as once imagined. The theoretical results were published on February 27 in the journal Natural communications show that Although ideal conditions for diamond formation may occur in Neptune’s mantle, they may not exist on Uranus.g. But other researchers say the interiors of the ice giants remain so mysterious that confident predictions of diamond mist on both planets will have to wait for expedition missions north beyond the solar system in the future. .
Rain of diamonds.
Rain of diamonds.
Ms Ravit Helled (University of Zurich), who was not involved in the study, said: “Planets with the masses of Uranus and Neptune seem to be quite common in the galaxy. Understanding what’s going on inside ice giants is “crucial for characterizing exoplanets, as well as understanding our own origins.”
Diamonds in the sky?
After Voyager 2 flew by these two icy planets in the 1980s, scientists realized that Neptune shines with its own internal heat (also called Geothermal energy), while Uranus only reflects the energy it receives from the Sun. Since then, researchers have been trying to explain this difference.
Jonathan Fortney (University of California, Santa Cruz), also said: “For decades, people have been trying to understand why they (Uranus and Neptune) are really different, because they are so similar.”
New research by Bingqing Cheng (Austrian Institute of Science and Technology) shows that diamond rain could be part of the solution to this conundrum. When gemstones pass through the outer layer, they release gravitational energy in the form of heat. Although less striking than an asteroid burning up in our atmosphere, the principle is similar. Meteorites (or diamonds) rub against any layer of material they pass through, and this friction releases heat.
Uranus and Neptune look similar but are different
Uranus and Neptune appear to be the same but are different – (Photo: Internet).
When Cheng’s team calculated “freezing point” of carbon under conditions similar to those of Neptune and Uranus, they discovered that there is a narrow range of temperature and pressure, ideal for diamond formation. Under these conditions, carbon and hydrogen separate, condensing the carbon into a carbon-rich liquid ideal for forming diamonds. This concentrated liquid can freeze in the form of diamond rain.
Cheng and colleagues suggest that Although this diamond weather phenomenon can occur on Neptune, conditions are not suitable for it on Uranus.. If true, it could help explain the planet’s mysterious faint glow compared to its planetary cousin.
The mystery has no solution
However, Fortney and Helled caution that scientists still don’t really understand what the interiors of ice giant planets will look like. Humanity’s only close views of Uranus and Neptune have been Voyager 2 flybys. Until we return to exploring the outer solar system, it’s hard to say for sure. It is not certain whether one of the two planets presents the phenomenon of a rain of diamonds falling from the sky.
In the meantime, build calculations from computer models “freezing point” of carbon on Uranus and Neptune would be a way of testing the influence of diamonds on the planets’ heat sources. Fortney said scientists have a good understanding of how helium rain works on Saturn, but diamond formation on ice giants has not been accounted for in state-of-the-art models.
Fortney said: “To me, this research attempts to place Uranus and Neptune at the same level of complexity. And so far, we’re not there yet. »
Scientists from the HZDR research laboratory (Germany) used plastic in 2022 to recreate the phenomenon of diamond crystallization on icy planets. Mr Dominic Kraus said his team added oxygen to the reaction and discovered that “rain of diamonds” are formed more easily.
Kraus and his colleagues used PET plastic to try to make these products. “nano diamond”. During the experiment, the team shone powerful laser light onto a very thin sample of material, heating it up to 6,000 degrees Celsius in the blink of an eye. At the same time, people also create a shock wave to compress the material to a level greater than 1 million times atmospheric pressure, over a period of just a few nanoseconds.
Kraus said: “Until now, we used hydrocarbon membranes for these types of experiments. We discovered that extreme pressure and high heat created very small diamonds. We call them nanodiamonds.
He added: “PET material has a good balance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen components, helping to perfectly simulate diamond formation activity on ice planets. The effect of oxygen is to accelerate the separation of carbon and hydrogen. Thanks to the action of oxygen, carbon atoms can combine more easily and form diamonds.”
According to Kraus, Diamonds on Neptune and Uranus can form a layer several hundred kilometers thick. Researchers have predicted that humanity would be able to mine diamonds from the planets of the solar system. They even imagined that each mining trip could yield several tons of valuable gemstones.
Kraus’ group’s research not only helps us better understand the universe, but also has practical application value, to produce nanometer-sized diamonds.
Article source: 1thegioi
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Beneath the icy hydrogen and helium atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus lies a liquid mantle rich in water, ammonia, methane and perhaps something…