The ice giants of Uranus and Neptune are not so much in the spotlight, and more attention is paid to their larger counterparts, Jupiter and Saturn. At first glance, Uranus and Neptune are just dull, slow balls made up of not-so-attractive molecules; But one can expect a spectacular world beneath the upper layers of these worlds: the continuous rain of diamonds.
The word “ice giant” may be reminiscent of science fiction novels; But astronomers use the word to classify the outermost planets in our solar system, Uranus and Neptune. The name Ice Giant is a bit confusing; Because, contrary to popular belief, it is not very similar to the ice you see in everyday life. This distinction stems from the composition of the planets. Many gas giants, such as Jupiter and Saturn, are made up of hydrogen and helium. These planets have reached their current size with the rapid accumulation of the elements hydrogen and helium. In contrast, much of the planets Neptune and Arvanus are composed of water, ammonia, and methane. Astronomers call these molecules “ice”; Because they are solid.
In the depths of the ice
Deep in the blue and green clouds of Uranus and Neptune, there are large amounts of water, ammonia and methane; But these ice giants probably have rocky cores. These nuclei are probably surrounded by elements that are compressed in quantum exotic states. In some places, strange quantum transitions turn into high-pressure soups that become narrower as they approach the surface.
Not much data is yet available on the interior of these ice giants. Mankind last accessed data from Uranus and Neptune three decades ago through the historic Voyager 2 mission. Since then, Jupiter and Saturn have hosted numerous probes; However, our view of Uranus and Neptune is limited to telescopic observations.
Astronomers and planetary scientists, in an attempt to understand the inner space of the planets, combined their little data with their experiments and tried to simulate the inner space conditions of these planets. They also used mathematical modeling. Astronomers can use mathematical modeling to determine specific environmental events using limited data. Combining mathematical modeling and experiments, they discovered the Uranus and Neptune diamond rains.
This illustration shows the diamond rainfall on Neptune
The idea of a diamond rain first came up before the Voyager 2 mission. This argument is very simple: we know what elements Uranus and Neptune are made of. We also know that as the planets go deeper, the material becomes hotter and denser. Details can be increased by mathematical modeling. For example, the more inland and mantle parts of these planets are likely to have a temperature of approximately 6727 degrees Celsius and a pressure of approximately 6 million times the pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere.
These models show that the upper layers of the mantle are slightly cooler. The temperature in these layers can reach 1727 degrees Celsius and the pressure in these areas is 200,000 times the pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, it is natural to ask: What happens to water, ammonia, and methane at these pressures and temperatures?
Excessive pressure on methane breaks down its molecules and releases carbon. Then, carbon forms longer chains. These long chains combine to form diamond-like crystal patterns. Then, dense diamonds fall into the layers of the mantle until the mantle becomes very hot. At this point, the diamond rains evaporate and rise, and the cycle repeats. Thus, a diamond rain is created.
The best way to prove a diamond rain claim is to send a spacecraft to Uranus or Neptune. Of course, this option will not be available soon; Consequently, the second way must be tried: laboratory simulation. On Earth, temperatures and pressures inside ice giants can be simulated by throwing powerful lasers at targets over short periods of time. In one experiment with polyester, nano-sized diamonds were produced. Neither Uranus nor Neptune contain large amounts of polystyrene; But these plastics are easier to control in the laboratory than methane and behave similarly.
Also, Uranus and Neptune can maintain pressures for longer than laser launches; As a result, Uranus and Neptune diamonds are likely to be larger than laboratory diamonds. Now, what is the final result? Based on what we know about the composition of these ice giants, their internal structure, experiments, and mathematical modeling, diamond rain is a very real phenomenon.