10 Million Tons Of Diamonds May Exist On Jupiter And Saturn, What Are We Waiting For?By Ernest Hamilton, UniversityHerald Reporter
Will the sequel to "Blood Diamond" - the Leo DiCaprio hit dramatizing the search for precious stones in South Africa - take place in Jupiter or Saturn?
New research published this week indicates that conditions on Jupiter and Saturn, 5th and 6th position away from the sun, are ideal for diamond-making; the two planets may contain over 10 million tons of the mineral - none of which has fallen into bloodied hands, according to National Geographic.
"We now know the high temperature limit [8,000 Kelvin] for solid diamond, above which it melts. And we also now have more precise pressure [and] temperature structures for the interiors of Saturn and Jupiter," said Kevin Baines, a University of Wisconsin-Madison planetary scientist who presented the study this week at a conference in Denver. "These two results together show us for the first time that solid diamonds can exist over large vertical regions of both planets.".
It literally rains diamonds in Saturn and Jupiter. Baines' research points to periodic lighting storms, observed by Cassini spacecraft, as the impetus for diamond formation, according to Nat Geo. Such storms lead to the deformation of methane molecules into carbon, which falls into the atmosphere and, by some chemical process, helps create graphite. As the graphite further penetrates Saturn's atmosphere, increasing pressure leads to the production of diamonds.
"This creates about a thousand tons of diamonds per year, and I estimate that in the 30,000-kilometer-thick diamond-containing layer, there are about 10 million tons of diamonds formed in this manner," Baines said.
A diamond in Saturn ranges in size from a micron to "the size of the pea", as per Nat Geo.
"They are probably much larger than nano-diamonds, possibly sizable chunks that you could hold in your hand," said Mona Delitsky, a planetary scientist at California Specialty Engineering in Pasadena, California, and Baines' co-author.
Others, however, can grow so big the Nat Geo author terms them "diamondbergs."
Diamonds have been surmised on Uranus and Neptune, 7th and 8th in the planetary lineup, as well, but Saturn and Jupiter are closer to earth. Still, mining them is currently beyond our technology, reported National Geographic. That prospect becomes graver when taking into account the 8,000 Kevlin lava pools underneath most diamond deposits.
At least Delitisky has some hope.
"In the far distant future, robotic probes could possibly mine these diamonds in the deep atmospheres of these gas giants," he said.