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    Start with a Diamond
    Start with Setting
    Oct 11

    Diamonds are among the most rare and valuable objects on Earth. They can only be found in a few select areas on the planet, but the building blocks for diamonds are actually scattered far and wide across the known universe.

    There is a planet-sized diamond that has been named Lucy. Our much beloved black diamonds are created from meteor dust. And now scientists believe that there are actual diamonds on other planets.

    Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus may all be home to diamonds, say two top researchers at the latest conference for the American Astronomical Society, Division of Planetary Sciences.

    Which begs a list of questions – how do they form? Are they like our diamonds? Can one fit into my heirloom ring setting?

    The Science

    Substances and elements take different states and forms depending on two important factors: temperature and pressure. Depending on these factors, the element carbon can solid but malleable like graphite (used in pencil lead), it can be gaseous like a cloud of methane, or it can be strong like a diamond. The chemical makeup of carbon is the same in all of these forms, even though each looks radically different from the other.

    Carbon exists on these four planets in the form of methane, which at high enough temperatures can be transformed into elemental carbon. And elemental carbon, with sufficient pressure, will form into diamond.

    The key to the process is lightning.  When it strikes the methane, it creates a dark soot-like carbon substance. As gravity drags the soot towards the gaseous center of the planet, the temperature and pressure rises and rises: the soot first turns into graphite, and then into diamonds.

    For Jupiter and Saturn, the diamonds are probably short lived; the centers of these planets are hot enough to melt diamond. But Neptune and Uranus are cool by comparison. With a brisk temperature of 10,000 degrees, these two planets could keep the diamonds solid after they form.

    Are They Real?

    Does this mean that you can expect DeBeers to move its base of operations of Uranus in the future? Hardly.

    While the science is right, the lack of hard data from the surface of any of these planets (that’s just a figure of speech, these planets are made of gas and don’t actually have a “surface”) makes all this talk purely hypothetical. While some researchers say there could be diamonds the size of a human hand, others speculate about much, much larger stones – “diamondbergs” drifting around like icebergs.

    Peter Read, physics professor at the University of Oxford, speculates that the diamonds might not even have a physical shape – they could be no more than clouds of condensed diamond material in a vapor form.

    It’s all speculative, of course, since satellites and spacecraft cannot see far enough into the atmospheres of these planets to get any more substantive data. But the research was based on demonstrated scientific principles, accurate planetary data, and lots of good old-fashioned math.You have to admit, the thought of Neptune being covered with piles of diamonds is spectacular.

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