They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but what about an entire planet made of diamonds?
Recently published research suggests that some exoplanets in deep space composed largely of carbon could turn into diamonds.
The research, published in The Planetary Science Journal, suggests that these “carbon-rich” planets may have the right conditions, such as water, heat and pressure, to turn carbon into diamonds. These planets could also form other minerals found on Earth, such as silicates and oxides.
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“These exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system,” study lead author Harrison Allen-Sutter said in a statement.
In recent memory, researchers have discovered several planets that may be composed of diamonds, including 55 Cancri e, discovered in 2004.
The planets, like the stars, are largely made up of dust and gas. However, when the planets surrounding the stars contain greater amounts of carbon and water is present, “a diamond-rich composition” can be created.
For comparison purposes, the Earth has a relatively small diamond component of around 0.001%.
“Excess water after the reaction can be stored in dense polymorphs of silica within the converted carbon planets,” the researchers wrote in the study abstract. “Such a conversion of mineralogy into diamond and silicates would decrease the density of the carbon-rich planet, making the converted planets distinct from the silicate planets in mass-radius relationships for Earth’s 2–8 mass range.”
To formulate their hypothesis, the researchers harnessed intense heat and pressure using high-pressure diamond anvil cells. From there, they put the silicon carbide under water and compressed it between two diamonds, heating the mixture with lasers.
Eventually, the silicon carbide turned into diamonds and silica.
Although the presence of diamonds may be intriguing to the late Marilyn Monroe, these planets are unlikely to be home to life, the researchers added. They noted that they are likely not geologically active and likely have atmospheres that are not conducive to life.
“Regardless of habitability, this is another step to help us understand and characterize our ever increasing and improving observations of exoplanets,” Allen-Sutter added in the statement. “The more we learn, the better we will be able to interpret new data from upcoming future missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope to understand the worlds beyond our solar system.”
The launch of NASA’s James Webb telescope is scheduled for October 2021, having been postponed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News previously reported.
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More than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered by NASA in total, about 50 of which were believed to be potentially habitable as of September 2018. They have the right size and orbit of their star to support surface water and, at least in theory, to sustain life.
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