Researchers know nothing about the ice giants at the far end of our solar system. A perpetual source of mystery and intrigue.
Take the dilemma of how Neptune and Uranus' chemical processes may shower diamonds on their cores. Carbon and hydrogen atoms create crystals under extreme pressure deep below the planets.
Years after conducting an experiment in 2017, scientists have finally determined how these diamonds created, reporting their findings in Nature Communication on May 26.
The researchers reproduced Neptune's core diamond rain in the lab to comprehend this molecular magic. The scientists sampled Styrofoam instead of methane, which would be found in ice giants.
After heating and pressing polystyrene, Kraus and his colleagues used an optical laser to create shockwaves that rippled across it. Shockwaves reached 8,540 degrees Fahrenheit. The core of Earth is 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Pressure inside the material increased.
Kraus stated 1.5 million bars are produced, which is comparable to 250 African elephants pressing on a thumbnail. Whew.
SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) equipment was utilized to aim X-rays to the sample and detect electron light bounce. It was the first time they saw the chemical reaction inside the non-crystalline solid. The hydrocarbons split, converting carbon to diamond and sinking as hydrogen escaped.
The experiment may explain why Neptune's core generates more energy than twice what it takes from the sun, according to Kraus. Researchers believe these diamond sheets might create gravitational energy and heat when they fall on planets.
The experiment may help scientists answer other solar system and planetary puzzles.