Nature’s one of the most precious minerals is diamond due to its amazing properties like hardness and luster that make it very attractive. Due to its unique visual appearance and hardness, it is the most famed of all gemstones and has been in use as adornment and ornament since ancient times. It is considered the hardest known substance and that property along with heat diffusibility makes it one of the finest cutting tools in industries.
In its composition, carbon is the only element that arranges to form a crystal lattice responsible for diamond’s unique properties. It is made under extreme temperature and pressure over millions of years in the core of Earth about 100 miles underground and volcanic eruptions push them to the surface in a short time thus leading to the discovery of these precious gemstones. This natural method of diamonds moving to the surface of the earth plays important role in making it the hardest known material and preserve the unique crystal structure.
This tough and harsh method is also considered one of the reasons of rarity of diamonds on earth as few can survive that journey from the core to the surface of earth. They are very expensive gemstones because they are rare on Earth and last forever in proper storage. Irrespective of the area of discovery, traditional diamonds are almost identical. Gems are precious because of their amazing properties like some of the unique properties of diamonds are its hardness, broad optical transparency, high thermal connectivity and low thermal expansion coefficient.
Space has a lot of these things that we consider precious and valuable because of rarity and mining procedures. So outer space is rightfully known as a “treasure chest of gemstones” due to the harsh conditions diamonds are very common in outer space. Other than diamonds, evidence shows the presence of other gemstones like opals and sapphires. There are many theories that prove the presence of diamonds in outer space. Research and examination of many meteorite fragments also depict the presence of diamonds.
As the formation of these gemstones requires extreme temperature and pressure with no oxygen, so outer space is capable of providing such harsh conditions due to extremely bad weather. One of the studies suggests that there were planets long ago made up of diamonds and other precious gemstones and they shattered during the formation of our solar system. Many theories give scientific evidence regarding how diamonds are formed in outer space.
One theory suggests the slow deposition of carbon atoms in the thin gases of outer space while the other theory suggests that the formation of diamonds occurs in “planetesimal” that is a lump of rock. Scientists claim that it is in between the size of asteroid and planet and must have existed in the early era of the solar system.
One of the most unique diamonds is a black diamond also known as carbonado diamond that is considered to come from interstellar space. They were found in Brazil and seemed to have a space connection. Black diamonds are huge as the size of asteroids when first landed on Earth. As the composition of these diamonds has nitrogen and hydrogen in it so it supports the claim of their origin. Research studies show that not once a carbonado diamond in discovered world’s mining fields or diamond similar to its composition i.e., high hydrogen content. Another study claims that these are the products of stellar supernovae explosions.
Meteorites falling on Earth provide evidence of the composition of our solar system outside the Earth. In 1987 discovery of nanodiamonds (2.5nm in diameter) leads to extensive scientific research. These nanodiamonds were discovered in meteoroids and the trapped gases and minerals among them gave an idea about the origin of these diamonds. One of the analytical reports published in Nature Communication provides evidence of the trapped diamond in one of the meteorite “ureilite”.
In 2008 this unique meteorite “uretile” fell on Sudan’s desert and grabs scientists’ attention due to its unique composition as it consists of diamonds. Its origin is controversial with no known parent body. The size range of diamonds found in meteorites was 40 micrometers to almost 100 micrometers. Some were broken and some were in the form of crystals.
Asteroid mining is going to be a thing as an asteroid contains many precious minerals. Satellites help in find out to grab the asteroid. One of the theories suggests that asteroids collision leads to heavy impact and immense shock pressure that crushes the carbon to the formation of diamonds.
Studies suggest that diamond exits in carbon-rich stars and considered as the remnants of long-dead stars. One of the stars “Dwarf” is considered a huge diamond in space. It is composed of carbon and oxygen and has been cooling down for many years up to approximately 2700 degrees Celsius leading to the crystallization of carbon to form diamonds. Due to the conditions diamonds are also considered the first-ever mineral to be formed. Studies suggest the discovery of the first white dwarf in 2013 and named PJ2222.
Another research studies claim a very big diamond floating in the space commonly known as “Lucy”. It is considered a great chunk of crystallized carbon with a weight of about 5 million trillion trillion pounds. It is radiant and also undergoes constant pulsations. That is helpful to astronomers and researchers to find the facts about the interior of the dwarf.
- 55 Cancri e
Similarly, the largest diamond reservoir that is 10 billion trillion trillion carat is discovered to be in the form of a planet in 2004. It is named “55 Cancri e” commonly known as “super-earth” because of its huge size i.e., radius twice the width of Earth and about 8 times heavier in mass. It is primarily composed of carbon in the form of diamond and graphite. Research shows that almost one-third of this huge planet is made up of pure diamond.
- Neptune and Uranus
The raining diamonds on Neptune and Uranus are quite fascinating and suspected to have that for more than 40 years. Scientists claim that weather in these planets is harsh enough for the formation of diamonds. Both these planets are known as “icy giants” because of the excessive accumulation of hydrogen and helium in the outer two layers. Gravity is responsible for the compression of these gases in the middle layer to generate internal temperature to thousands of Kelvin.
Such high temperature compresses the icy gas into dense fluid and leads to the reaction of ammonia and methane. Such intense reactions containing methane provide carbon structure at extreme temperature and pressure leads to the formation of diamond deep within the ice layers. The density difference makes these diamonds sink in the planet that seems like the rain of diamonds. The sinking diamonds are considered responsible for the high temperatures of these planets. That proves why the emission energy of Neptune is greater than it is receiving from the sun. Another study suggests diamond exists in all three forms i.e., solid, liquid and gas on these planets.
- Jupiter and Saturn
There is another theory regarding the rain of diamonds in the clouds of Jupiter and Saturn. The massive sizes of these planets lead to high gravity, a great amount of pressure and heat; the conditions required for the formation of diamonds. Recent research by generating artificial conditions similar to those in Saturn and Jupiter shows that carbon would form diamonds in such high temperatures and pressures.
The weather in Jupiter and Saturn lightning storms convert methane gas into the diamond that would keep falling into the planet due to pressure of about 10 to 50 gigapascals. The theory suggests that they are more likely to form in huge, storm-ravaged regions of Saturn. Thus thousand of matric tons of diamonds are formed in Saturn every year due to weather condition
In a study published in the Nature Astrophysics Journal the raining of diamonds in Uranus and Neptune is proved by the scientists by artificially creating extreme temperature and pressure similar to those planets. Such experiments provide evidence of existing diamonds in these planets although their formation requires millions of years. To prove either diamond can withstand such drastic conditions, scientist use diamonds and combine with the laser. They shot a diamond with a laser focusing at one point to check either it vaporizes or not. It vaporized in seconds thus it can tolerate pressures in outer space proving the existence of diamonds in outer space. Thus, by studying precious gemstones we can study more about our solar system.
Our space is amazing but due to harsh conditions, especially the outer planets of our solar system are harder to study so it’s not possible to discover all its wonders yet. Due to advancements in technologies, NASA is now considering starting a new space probe mission to Neptune and Uranus. This would be helpful in understanding and learning new and fascinating aspect about Solar System’s intriguing diamond worlds
Want more about diamonds? Read Does Squeezing Coal Make Diamonds?