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Scientists study diamond planets “unlike anything in our solar system”


This sparkling illustration shows a carbon-rich planet with diamond and silica as the main minerals.

Dan Shim / ASU / Vecteezy

Diamonds may be a rare commodity here on Earth, but the larger universe doesn’t seem to have any shortages. Just imagine the outrageous sparkling rings you could create from an entire planet filled with sought-after gems.

Researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Chicago have conducted a new study on carbon-rich exoplanets (planets located outside our solar system) and have found that some of these wild worlds may be made up of diamonds and silica . Diamonds are made of carbon. Here on Earth, silica is found in quartz and sand.

“These exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system,” said Harrison Allen-Sutter of the ASU, lead author of the paper published in The Planetary Science Journal, in a statement last week.

What makes a planet diamond and what makes a planet similar to Earth? Stars and planets are created from dust and clouds of gas, but it is a question of the relationship between certain gases that feed into their formation. “A star with a lower carbon-oxygen ratio will have planets like Earth, composed of silicates and oxides with very little diamond content (Earth’s diamond content is about 0.001 percent),” ASU said.

This is what a diamond anvil cell looks like. A sample is compressed between the two flat surfaces.

Dan Shim / ASU

Not all stars are like our sun. Some have a higher carbon-oxygen ratio, which, in combination with the presence of water, could lead to carbon-rich planets.

The research team took this idea one step further and tested it in a laboratory experiment using diamond anvil cells. This is pretty much what it sounds like: two high-quality anvil-shaped diamonds are pointed at each other.

Scientists mimicked the insides of carbide exoplanets by immersing silicon carbide in water and compressing it under high pressure. The team added some laser heating to the mix.

“As they predicted, with high heat and pressure, the silicon carbide reacted with water and turned into diamonds and silica,” ASU said.

This latest study builds on previous investigations of planets that may be filled with diamonds. NASA took a closer look at 55 Cancri e, an exoplanet that has earned the nickname “diamond planet” thanks to research that suggests it has a carbon-rich composition.

Even if we could reach these diamond exoplanets, they wouldn’t be attractive places to visit. “While the Earth is geologically active (an indicator of habitability), the results of this study show that carbon-rich planets are too difficult to be geologically active and this lack of geological activity can make the atmospheric composition uninhabitable,” said ASU. .

Shine, crazy diamond planets.

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