Precious metal enthusiasts are surely looking forward to mining the final frontier. But did you know that diamond miners may be able to get in on the action too? The payloads of diamonds from space may actually be bigger than the amount of precious metals asteroid miners can find, but as you’ll see below, space-diamond miners will have to overcome tougher challenges to reach them.
If you can recall your astronomy lessons from science, you’ll know that Jupiter and Saturn are planets with much greater size and gravitational influence than Earth. They are also gas giants with active atmospheres and weather phenomena. When a storm brews, lightening fries the abundant atmospheric methane – splitting it into pure hydrogen and burnt carbon soot. As this soot falls to the planets’ cores, tremendous atmospheric pressure compresses it into graphite after about 1,600 km. By a depth of 6,000 km, these chunks of falling graphite are further compressed into diamonds. After falling for another 30,000 km (about two-and-a-half times the span of Earth), the diamonds are surely destroyed by the intense heat and pressure.
Dr. Kevin Baines of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, alongside his co-author Mona Delitsky from California Specialty Engineering, presented these findings at the 45th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in 2013. According to Baines, these diamond rainstorms create thousands of tons of ring-sized diamonds every Earth-year.
Unfortunately, even if diamond miners could travel the 700+ million km to Jupiter, or the 1+ billion km to Saturn, the diamonds are formed at pressures 100,000 times greater than Earth’s oceans. It could be a long time before you’ll be able to buy, sell, or craft jewelry using “diamonds from the heavens.”