Diamonds big enough to be worn by Hollywood film stars could be raining down on Saturn and Jupiter, US scientists have calculated.
Baines presented his unpublished findings at the annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American
Astronomical Society in Denver, Colorado, alongside his co-author Mona Delitsky, from California Speciality Engineering.
Baines and Delitsky analysed the latest temperature and pressure predictions for the planets’ interiors, as well as new data on how carbon behaves in different conditions.
By a depth of 6,000km, these chunks of falling graphite toughen into diamonds – strong and unreactive.
“The idea that there is a depth range within the atmospheres of Jupiter and (even more so) Saturn within which carbon would be stable as diamond does seem sensible,” says Prof Raymond Jeanloz, one of the team who first predicted diamonds on Uranus and Neptune.
However Dr Nadine Nettelmann, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said further work was needed to understand whether carbon can form diamonds in an atmosphere which is rich in hydrogen and helium – such as Saturn’s.
“Based on what we know at this point, 55 Cancri e is more of a ‘diamond in the rough’,” said author Johanna Teske, of the University of Arizona.