They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but what about a whole planet made of diamonds?
Newly published research suggests that some exoplanets in space, mostly made up of carbon, could become diamonds.
The study, published in the Planetary Science Journal, suggests that these “carbon-rich” planets could have the right conditions, such as water, heat, and pressure, to convert the 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,” the study’s lead author Harrison Allen-Sutter said in a statement.
Recently, researchers have discovered several planets that can be made up of diamonds, including 55 Cancri e discovered in 2004.
Planets and stars are mostly made up of dust and gas. When planets surrounding stars contain large amounts of carbon and water is present, a “diamond-rich composition” can be created.
For comparison purposes, the earth has a relatively low diamond component of about 0.001%.
“After the reaction, excess water can be stored in dense silica polymorphs inside the transformed carbon planets,” the researchers wrote in the abstract of the study. “Such a conversion of mineralogy to diamond and silicate would reduce the density of the carbon-rich planet and distinguish the converted planets from the silicate planets in the mass-radius relationships for the 2-8 Earth mass range.”
To make their hypothesis, the researchers used intense heat and pressure with high pressure diamond anvil cells. From there they placed silicon carbide under water and compressed it between two diamonds, heating the mixture with lasers.
Eventually the silicon carbide turned into diamonds and silicon dioxide.
While the presence of diamonds may be intriguing to the late Marilyn Monroe, these planets are unlikely to harbor life, the researchers added. They found that they are likely not geologically active and likely have atmospheres that are not conducive to life support.
“Regardless of habitability, this is an additional step in understanding and characterizing our ever-growing and improved observations of exoplanets,” Allen-Sutter added in the statement. “The more we learn, the better we can interpret new data from future missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope to understand the worlds beyond our own solar system.”
NASA’s James Webb telescope is slated to hit the market in October 2021 after being pushed back a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News previously reported.
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In total, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered by NASA, of which around 50 were considered potentially habitable as of September 2018. They are the right size and orbit of their star to support surface waters and, at least in theory, support life.
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