Some distant alien planets may be made of diamondssay researchers.
Under the right conditions such as the presence of water heat and pressure, exoplanets with high concentrations of carbon could turn into diamonds, researchers found in a new study. These exoplanets could also form silica, an oxide of silicon found as quartz in nature, the researchers added.
“These exoplanets are unlike anything else in our solar system,” says author Harrison Allen-Sutter, a graduate of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. said in a statement.
Related: The super-Earth plane is probably made of diamond
Stars and planets in the same solar system are formed from the same cloud of gas and dust, so they usually have similarities in composition. While planets like the earth often stars with lower carbon-oxygen ratios, exoplanets orbiting stars with higher carbon-to-oxygen ratios, are more likely to be carbon-rich.
So while Earth has a low diamond content (about 0.001%), carbon-rich exoplanets can be diamond-heavy, scientists said in the same statement.
To test how and if such planets could form diamonds (and silica), scientists mimicked the interiors of carbon-rich exoplanets in the laboratory. They did this using high-heat and high-pressure diamond anvil cells (high-pressure devices used to compress small pieces of material to extreme pressures.) The researchers then immersed silicon carbide, which consists of silicon and carbon, in water and compressed it to high pressures between to diamonds. As this continued, they also used lasers to heat the sample.
By monitoring this process with X-ray measurements, the researchers found that the silicon carbide turned into diamonds and silica.
However, the science team does not believe that these diamond planets are unlikely to be able to host life. Scientists estimate that most carbon-rich planets like this would not be particularly geologically active, which could make their atmosphere harmless to life, according to the statement.
“Regardless of habitability, this is a further step in helping us understand and characterize our ever-increasing and improved observations of exoplanets,” Allen-Sutter said in the statement. “The more we learn, the better we can interpret new data from upcoming future missions as James Webb Space Telescope and the Roman space telescope Nancy Grace to understand worlds beyond our own solar system. “
This the work was published on 26 August in The Planetary Science Journal.
Email Chelsea Gohd at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.