Diamond rain on Neptune


When we’re planning our day on Earth, most of us will check out the weather forecast. Of course, if it’s raining, we definitely won’t be going to the beach (I mean, you can if you want, but you’ll get a little wet). If it’s sunny, we won’t be going ice skating (that won’t end well). If it’s windy we won’t be going for a lovely picnic in the park (unless you want your sandwich ingredients flying about everywhere) and if it’s cloudy, we definitely won’t be sunbathing and getting a tan. To us, checking out the weather on Earth is something we do as if by instinct. However, have you ever looked up the weather on Neptune? Well, you might want to – because Diamond Rain is forecast.

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The other planets

We all know the planets by now (even if we have to do a little jingle to remember their order), but one aspect that is lesser known about Jupiter and Saturn is that they produce this ‘diamond rain.’ Scientists discovered this incredible phenomenon in the early 2000s, and found that the combination of lightning, carbon, and methane in the atmosphere of these planets created these diamonds which would then fall closer to Saturn and Jupiter – like diamond rain. In fact, one study has found that Saturn produces around 2,000 tons of diamonds every single year! The same phenomenon occurs on Jupiter, and until recently, scientists believed these were the only two planets to exhibit this feature that would make jewelers across the world incredibly jealous. However, new research has hypothesized that the same could happen on Neptune.

The planet Neptune

Neptune is the last planet on the little planet jingle (if you don’t count Pluto, which is technically classed as a dwarf planet. Sorry, Pluto). This means that Neptune is the furthest away from the sun. Because of this, Neptune is incredibly cold and often referred to as an Ice Planet. Because Neptune is so far away from us, scientists have found it difficult to truly look into the planet; its irregularities, its size, its orbit and its composition. Much of the research on Neptune has come from mathematical prediction and some space exploration. Now, a new experiment has found something pretty exciting.

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The experiment

A new study into the composition of Neptune has been published in Nature Astronomy – a scientific journal dedicated to space exploration, research, and planetary science. The experiment took place in a lab, whereby the scientists used lasers to create varying intense pressure systems and shockwaves that would mimic the pressure that exists on the dense, cold and gaseous planet. This was inflicted upon a polymer of hydrogen and carbon (just like the gases on Saturn and Jupiter) which exist on the planet. The scientist found that diamond rain – like that on the other planets – was created. The rain only lasted a couple of seconds and was only created on a small scale, but the scientists predict that with its immense size and gaseous structure, the rain could be even more prominent on the actual planet.

An exciting development

This new study is an incredibly exciting discovery for those in the lab and those who work in the realm of science. This was the first ever study to mimic this ‘diamond rain’ inside of a laboratory and is one of the biggest discoveries for the relatively unknown planet, Neptune. Although there’s no real real-world application for this diamond rain on the planet (unless anyone volunteers to go and harvest them), it is a lovely thought, and something scientists and astronauts hope to explore more during space travel.

They say diamonds are a girl’s’ best friend, but what about diamond rain? If only we could take a little trip to Neptune to see it for ourselves.