Planetary scientists find Jupiter and Saturn are awash in diamonds

Researchers have calculated that diamond will be stable in the deep interiors of these two planets.
By | Published: October 15, 2013 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Alan Friedman
Recent work by planetary scientists has indicated that the deep atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn may contain chunks of diamond floating in a liquid hydrogen-helium fluid.

Planetary scientists Mona L. Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering in Pasadena and Kevin H. Baines of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have compiled recent data about the phase diagram of carbon and combined them with newly published adiabats (pressure-temperature diagrams) for Jupiter and Saturn to calculate that diamond will be stable in the deep interiors. Further, at altitudes below the regions where diamond is stable, the pressures and temperatures will be so large as to melt the diamond into liquid, creating diamond rain or liquid diamond.

Fabio Carvalho
Recent publications have reported improved adiabats based on new equations of state of the materials inside Jupiter and Saturn, and new experiments by researchers at Sandia Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory using shock-wave techniques have given clear boundaries for the different phases of carbon. Delitsky and Baines are reporting that elemental carbon such as soot or graphite generated in Saturn’s enormous lightning storms will descend into the planet and will be crushed into diamonds at deep altitudes and then melted into liquid diamond near the cores of the planets.

While it has been known for 30 years that diamond may be stable in the cores of Uranus and Neptune, Jupiter and Saturn were thought to be too hot or not have conditions suitable for precipitation of solid diamond. The cores of Uranus and Neptune are too cold to melt diamond. The new data available have confirmed that diamonds may be floating around inside Saturn, some growing so large that they could perhaps be called “diamondbergs.”