Why Neptune has diamond rains

(ORDO NEWS) — New experimental data are presented explaining the reasons why diamonds from diamonds can rain on Neptune and Uranus .

According to the hypothesis, high temperature and pressure in thousands of kilometers under the clouds of these gas giants should break down hydrocarbon compounds. In this case, carbon turns into diamonds, which sink deeper and deeper, tending to the core of the planets.

The new experiment used a Linac X-ray laser, which found that carbon was converted directly to diamonds. “This study provides data on a phenomenon that is very difficult to model,” explained physicist Mike Dunn, who was not involved in the experiment. “It became clear how the elements separated, just like a mayonnaise breaks down into oil and vinegar.”

Neptune and Uranus are the two most poorly studied planets in the solar system. They are too far away. Only the Voyager 2 space probe reached them, and even he passed by, examining the planets briefly. But gas giants are very common in our galaxy and therefore they need to be studied. An interesting fact: exoplanets, like Neptune, are 10 times more than similar to Jupiter.

We know that the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus are composed mainly of hydrogen and helium with a small admixture of methane. Under the rarefied layers of the atmosphere, closer to the cores of the planets, there is a superhot and superdense liquid consisting of water, methane and ammonia.

Earlier experiments showed that with sufficient pressure and temperature, methane can turn into diamonds. More precisely, diamonds can form within this hot, dense material. “We now have a very promising new approach based on X-ray scattering,” says physicist Dominic Kraus. “Our experiments provide important parameters for modeling, where before we had only one sheer uncertainty.”

To recreate the conditions that can be observed inside gas giants such as Neptune, the researchers used hydrocarbon polystyrene (C8H8) instead of methane (CH4). He was heated and squeezed, as if the substance was at a depth of about 10,000 kilometers.

Laser pulses generated shock waves, heating the material to about 5,000 degrees Kelvin (4,727 degrees Celsius), which also increased the pressure. “We have reached a pressure of approximately 1.5 million bar,” says Kraus. The experiment also examined how X-rays scatter electrons in polystyrene.

As a result, the researchers not only observed the conversion of carbon into diamond, but also found out what happens to the rest of the sample – it is split into hydrogen. There is practically no carbon left. “In the case of gas giants, we now know that almost all of the carbon is converted to diamonds, and does not take a liquid transitional form,” Kraus says.

This is a very important discovery that can explain one of Neptune’s oddities: the temperature of its outer layers is much higher than it should be, and the planet emits 2.6 times more energy than the Sun gives it.

If diamonds descend to the core of the planet, then they can become the source of gravitational energy, which is converted into heat generated by the friction between the diamonds and the material around them.


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