(ORDO NEWS) — There is a pretty interesting variety of planets here in the solar system, but they are limited by the composition of our sun. Since planets, moons, asteroids, and other bodies are made up of what is left after the completion of the formation of the Sun, their chemistry is believed to be related to our star.
But not all stars are made of the same material as our Sun, which means that across the vast expanses of our galaxy, we can expect to find planets that are very different from those in our small solar system.
For example, stars that are rich in carbon compared to our Sun – more carbon than oxygen – could have planets composed mostly of diamond with a small amount of silica, if conditions are right. Now in the lab, scientists have crushed and heated silicon carbide to figure out what these conditions might be.
“These planets are unlike anything in our solar system,” said geophysicist Harrison Allen-Sutter of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.
The idea that stars with a higher carbon-to-oxygen ratio than the Sun could form diamond planets first came about with the discovery of 55 Cancri e, a super-earth planet orbiting a star believed to be rich in carbon, 41 light-years away. from the U.S.
Between 12 and 17 percent of planetary systems could be located around carbon-rich stars – and with thousands of stars containing planets identified to date, a planet made of diamond seems plausible.
Scientists have already investigated and confirmed the idea that such planets are composed mainly of carbides, carbon compounds, and other elements. If such a planet was rich in silicon carbide, the researchers suggested, and if water was present, which oxidized silicon carbide and turned it into silicon and carbon, then with sufficient heating and pressure, carbon could become diamond.
To confirm their hypothesis, they turned to a diamond anvil cell, a device used to compress small samples of material to very high pressures.
They took tiny samples of silicon carbide and submerged them in water. The samples were then placed in a cell with a diamond anvil, which compressed them to a pressure of up to 50 gigapascals, which is about half a million times the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level. After the samples were compressed, the team heated them with a laser.
In total, they conducted 18 experiments and found that at high temperature and high pressure, their silicon carbide samples reacted with water, turning into silica and diamond.
Thus, the researchers concluded that at temperatures up to 2500 Kelvin and pressures up to 50 gigapascals in the presence of water, silicon carbide planets can oxidize, and their internal composition is dominated by silica and diamond.
If we could identify these planets – perhaps by their density profiles and the composition of their stars – we could rule them out as planets that could contain life.
According to the researchers, their interior space will be too difficult for geological activities, and their composition will make their atmosphere unsuitable for life as we know it.
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