On earth, we get rain, hail, and snow; on Saturn and Jupiter, they get diamonds. Scientists believe that the most common type of “precipitation” in the Solar System is probably diamonds—a lot prettier and a lot more dangerous than our simple hail.
The unpublished findings are from Dr. Kevin Baines and Mona Delitsky, who presented them at the annual Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Baines is of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering.
Baines’ and Delitsky’s data about the atmosphere of gas giants Jupiter and Saturn indicates high levels of carbon in its crystal forms—AKA, Diamonds.
“It all begins in the upper atmosphere, in the thunderstorm alleys, where lightning turns methane into soot,” said Baines. “As the soot falls, the pressure on it increases. And after about 1,000 miles it turns into graphite—the sheet-like form of carbon you find in pencils.”
Eventually, that graphite hardens into full-fledged diamonds.
The diamonds are probably “big enough to put on a ring,” according to Dr. Baines. Baines says that it could be as much as 1,000 tons per year. The “rain” continues falling through the gas giants, to “extreme depths, [where] the pressure and temperature is so hellish, there’s no way the diamonds could remain solid.”
Baines and Delitsky don’t know for certain what happens to the diamonds when they reach the core, but they say it’s possible that they melt into a liquid sea of carbon.
Though the findings have not yet been published, they are currently being reviewed by other experts in the field, who say it’s not an impossible scenario.