It’s raining diamonds on Jupiter and Saturn

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Jupiter's red spot
In this photo of Jupiter taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, do you see that big red circle? Well, that’s a gigantic storm known as the Great Red Spot that’s estimated to have been raging for almost 350 years! I wonder if it’s filled with diamonds.

Is there a gem more beautifully angelic than a diamond? If they weren’t so incredibly expensive, I’d love nothing more than to buy a few for my mom, sisters, and aunt. I guess I should plan a trip to Jupiter or Saturn, because NASA researchers say diamonds fall from the sky there!

Wait… I feel like meteorologists (people who study the weather) can barely predict the rain here on planet Earth. How can these NASA guys be so certain there’s diamond storms raining sparkly gems on planets thousands of lightyears away?! According to Dr. Kevin Baines of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we’re pretty certain.”

The chemistry isn’t all that complicated to figure out, either. Basically, there are two main gases that make up Saturn’s atmosphere – methane and hydrogen. When a large storm brews in the air, the methane and hydrogen sizzle up and create something known as soot.

Well, as the soot falls towards Saturn’s surface, it experiences immense pressure that’s about 100,000 times stronger than on Earth. This process forms graphite, “the sheet-like form of carbon you find in pencils,” said Baines.

Finally, the graphite squeezes into diamonds! Bada bing, bada boom. This same process is also likely happening on Jupiter, according to the researchers. These valuable rocks aren’t microscopic pieces either, like the ones left over from the comet that hit the Earth 28 million years ago. Instead, the diamond “raindrops” are large enough to make any gal feel like Hollywood’s hottest star!

Sounds amazing right? Now, while you might start thinking Saturn and Jupiter are the perfect place to mine for these precious gems, the crazy intense pressure and dangerous chemicals in the air would make it really tough!  Also, if you don’t catch the diamonds fast enough, they’d continue falling into the core of these gas giant planets.

Still, the fact that diamonds rain somewhere in the universe is completely mindboggling and cool. “The bottom line is that 1,000 tons of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn,” said Baines.

Featured image courtesy of IndyDina with Mr. Wonderful on Flickr