The universe is stranger than you can imagine, and wild and bizarre exoplanets have been discovered deep within the universe. Planets with glistening rivers of lava or planets under very strong gravity are shaped like footballs. To this list we can add another class of strange planets raining diamonds.

    The diamond rain effect, thought to occur deep inside ice giants like Uranus and Neptune, was replicated in a lab here on Earth in 2017. It’s more common than previously thought.

    Diamond rain can occur on ice giant planets where oxygen is present.
    Diamond rain can occur deep inside icy giant planets and is more common when oxygen is present. Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    An international group of researchers working with the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory previously created the diamond rain effect by putting hydrogen and carbon under very high pressure. But the new study wanted to make the conditions more realistic for what the interior of an icy giant planet would look like by also including other elements, such as oxygen.

    To simulate this chemical mixing, the researchers used familiar materials. It turns out that PET plastic is the kind of thing used in great packaging, chemically similar to what we wanted to create. “PET has a balance of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to simulate activity on an icy planet,” explains Dominic Klaus, one of the researchers at the University of Rostock. doing.

    Researchers used a high-power laser to generate shock waves in the plastic and observed how the X-rays bounced off. This allowed them to see how tiny diamonds were formed. Miles away, a much larger diamond could form where it could fall towards the planet’s icy core. The diamond can even sink into the core and form a thick diamond layer.

    In new experiments, the team found that nanodiamonds grow at lower temperatures and pressures when oxygen is included. This means that diamond rain is more likely to form in the presence of oxygen. “The effect of oxygen was to accelerate the splitting of carbon and hydrogen, promoting the formation of nanodiamonds,” Krause said. “This meant that carbon atoms could bond more easily to form diamonds.”

    This discovery prompted the researchers to rerun the experiment and hope to include chemicals such as ethanol, water, and ammonia to more closely model the ice giant’s environment.

    SLAC scientist and collaborator Nicholas Hartley said: “The addition of oxygen gives us a much more complete picture of these planetary processes than ever before, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s a step towards seeing how the material actually behaves on other planets.”

    The research is published in Science Advances.

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