Science

How Uranus and Neptune create diamond rivers

Uranus and Neptune are gems, and not just because of the sumptuous blue of their atmospheres. They would be full of diamonds. It’s raining, dripping, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances. The idea is not new, as Olivier Mousis, director of the Institute of Origins at the University of Aix-Marseille and astrophysicist at Marseille’s Laboratory for Astrophysics, highlights in Sciences et Avenir: “There is a publication in the journal Nature called ‘Neptune – diamonds in the sky? “since 1981”. But these latest works are trying to shed some light on the mechanism that leads to these carat rains.

Play Hell Uranus on Earth

Since 1986 and Voyager 2, no probe has flown over Uranus and Neptune. So, to describe the interior of these two ice giants, located 2.9 and 4.5 billion kilometers from the Sun, it is necessary to resort to calculation and modeling. Similarly, we are more or less convinced of the presence of diamonds “for a very simple reason,” continues Olivier Mousis. “Given the conditions of temperature and pressure within these planets, carbon is necessarily in crystalline form, in other words, diamond. Indeed, the mass of gas that makes up the atmosphere of these planets creates both a high pressure, thousands of times greater than the pressure of our atmosphere, and a temperature of several thousand degrees. Hellish conditions that researchers are trying to reproduce on Earth. So this research was done at SLAC, the Stanford Particle Accelerator in the United States. By creating shock waves with a powerful laser, researchers have been able to probe matter when subjected to pressures of 72 to 125 gigapascals and temperatures of 3,500 to 6,000 K. The temperature and pressure ranges span those found on Uranus and Neptune.

Dispersed plastic “puzzle-style”

But again, nothing new: for a long time we did not know how to arrange a little hell on Earth.

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