Given the right circumstances, some carbon-rich exoplanets could be made exclusively of diamonds and silica, according to a new study recently published in Planetary Science Journal.
“These exoplanets are not unlike anything in our solar system,” said lead author and geophysicist Harrison Allen-Sutter of Arizona State University in a statement.
Most stars are formed from the same cloud of gas, which means they end up being made of mostly the same things.
Stars with less carbon – a lower carbon-to-oxygen ratio than the Sun – tend to resemble the Earth’s composition and will end up consisting mostly of oxides and silicates. Diamonds are rare on Earth ̵
But other stars made of significantly higher levels of carbon than the Sun would end up converting a significant portion of their mass to diamond and silicate, according to new research – that is, if there is enough water around, a relatively rich resource in the universe.
To strengthen the hypothesis, the researchers immersed silicon carbide in water and compressed it to extremely high levels of pressure. A laser heated the mass while an X-ray machine took measurements.
The result: the silicon carbide reacted with water and was converted to silica and diamonds.
In other words, the core of carbon-rich exoplanets could consist mainly of silica and diamonds, given certain temperatures and pressure levels.
Living on a diamond
Such diamond-rich planets are extremely unlikely to remember life. They would end up being extremely harsh and far less likely to be geologically active. This means that their atmospheres can end up being too inactive to be habitable.
However, there is a silver lining: future exoplanet discoveries can be ruled out as habitable thanks to their unusually high density profiles.
“Regardless of habitability, this is a further step in helping us understand and characterize our ever-increasing and improved observations of exoplanets,” Allen-Sutter argued.
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