In a news development that would get the fictional CEO of a future space mining company watering at the mouth, a group of astronomers has revealed that they believe entire planets might be made of diamonds.
The researchers, from Arizona State University and the University of Chicago, say that diamonds, the rare, precious rocks here on Earth (Earth’s diamond content is about 0.001%) might be as common as mud on other planets if the conditions are just right.
Given that there are at least 100 billion planets in the Milky Way alone, the chances are that those specific conditions have indeed been met somewhere in the universe.
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Simulating diamond planet conditions
In a new study published recently in The Planetary Science Journal, the team of astronomers hypothesized that exoplanets that form in systems with a high carbon-to-oxygen ratio could end up with compositions rich in diamond if they have the right amount of water, heat, and pressure.
To test their theory, the researchers used high-pressure diamond-anvil cells to simulate the conditions such an exoplanet might need to form.
They immersed silicon carbide in water and then applied very high pressures, using the diamond-anvil cells, to the two substances. Afterwards, the researchers heated the sample with a laser and took X-ray measurements in order to study the chemical reaction that took place.
The experiment showed that the conditions highlighted by the researchers did indeed turn the silicon carbide and water into diamond and silica.
The researchers say that a planet made largely of diamonds would likely not be home to that bling-loving E.T. which many of us likely thought of when we first read the words 'diamond planet.' Such a hard diamond upper crust would mean that the planet would most likely not be geologically active, meaning that it wouldn't be conducive to a habitable atmosphere.
"Regardless of habitability, this is one additional step in helping us understand and characterize our ever-increasing and improving observations of exoplanets," Harrison Allen-Sutter, lead author of the study, explained in a press release.
"The more we learn, the better we’ll be able to interpret new data from upcoming future missions like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope to understand the worlds beyond our own solar system."