NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is set to explore the worlds of Uranus and Neptune--two of the most mysterious objects in the universe due to the fact that the planets have been experiencing diamond rain. Or so astronomers and physicists have suspected for years.
Both the planets appear blue in colour because of the presence of methane in its atmosphere. Methane is made up of carbon and the temperature and pressure conditions of Neptune and Uranus are so extreme that carbon atoms can be crushed into diamonds in their atmospheres. Explaining the phenomenon, astrophysicist Naomi Rowe-Gurney opened up during a podcast hosted by NASA.
"Well, methane has carbon in it and that carbon can occur by itself and also be crushed by the immense pressures that happen, like, deep in the atmosphere," said Rowe-Gurney. "And inside the planet, when it gets really hot and really dense, these, these diamonds form and accumulate, and then they become even heavier. And that means that they kind of rain down in the atmosphere."
The astrophysicist, however, added, "But it's not the rain that we see here because these pressures are extreme, and you'll never be able to get there as a human. So even if these diamonds do exist, we would never be able to go and grab them."
The idea of diamond rain was first introduced by Marvin Ross of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in a 1981 article in Nature titled, The Ice Layer of Uranus and Neptune—Diamonds in the Sky?
According to American Scientist, Ross suggested that the carbon and hydrogen atoms of methane separate at the high pressures and high temperatures inside the ice giant planets to be squeezed into a diamond structure.