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Watch Diamonds Rain on Jupiter and Saturn

On Jupiter and Saturn, half-inch diamonds fall from the atmosphere—just like rain on the earth. No, this writer is not enjoying a particularly opulent LSD trip—it is actually a new research by a NASA scientists, suggesting that up to 1,000 tons of diamonds are created in Saturn’s atmosphere each year, with Jupiter’s atmosphere being another prodigious producer of diamonds as well.

The new study was presented at an annual American Astronomical Society meeting by Mona Delitsky of California Speciality Engineering and Kevin Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NASA’s JPL. The study has not yet been published, but some other planetary experts have preliminarily confirmed Baines and Delitsky’s discovery. Raymond Jeanloz, one of the scientists who have predicted that the Uranus and Neptune’s atmosphere are conducive to the formation of diamonds, believes the idea of diamond rain on Saturn and Jupiter is “sensible”.

cB3oyQrNGUuYCV4u2XNSLugXbEraWG60T6_9ZVnswPIABAAAeAMAAEpQ_645x559 If Saturn and Earth are next to each other in space, this would be the comparison of their sizes. Jupiter is around 10% larger than Saturn. *Image source: extremetech.


Jupiter and Saturn are both gas giants with a radius of about 10 times that of Earth. Jupiter’s diameter is about 87,000 miles (140,000 km) while Saturn is about 75,000 miles (120,000 km) across. It remains uncertain if either of them have a solid core, however, both of them are likely to have a small and rocky core. By far, the majority constituents of both Jupiter and Saturn is hydrogen gas. Although we don’t know exactly how thick the atmosphere of Saturn and Jupiter is, but it is tens of thousands of miles, at least. In comparison, Earth’s atmosphere ends at about 62 miles (100 km).

The diamond rain on Jupiter and Saturn starts from the upper atmosphere. Lightning strikes methane, making it into soot (carbon). As the soot falls, it turns to graphite with increasing pressure. After 4,000 miles falling, the pressure becomes large enough to turn graphite into diamond. Then, the diamonds continue to fall for another approximately 20,000 miles (no one knows the exact sizes of Jupiter and Saturn’s cores)—almost three times the diameter of Earth—until they reach their cores. At this point, the temperature and pressure might be so high that all the diamonds could probably be turned back into a sea of liquid carbon.

Of course, some readers may consider throwing out some cosmic buckets in space to catch some of diamond rain. The answer is perhaps yes, however, the cost may be prohibitively high and there are plenty of scientific endeavors such as orbiters, probes, rovers, etc. that certainly take precedence over furnishing our women with large, intragalactic diamonds.


This image is the recently discovered “The Rose of Saturn” –the spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm. Its width is twice that of Earth and it might produce large quantities of diamond rain. *Image source: extremetech.

In fact, there are more exciting stuffs in space—according to a scientific report back in 2012, scientists found a nearby super-Earth which is up to one-third solid diamond.


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