Can planets produce bling?

July 19, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Space.com photoBummer….there are no diamonds to be found on the remote planets of Uranus or Neptune. Not that I’ve been there over the weekend to check – I have to rely on the expertise of the co-authors of a new study, Luca Ghiringhelli of the University of Amsterdam and Daan Frenkel of the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

After seeing Blood Diamond with Leo and his spiffy South African accent, I swore not to buy anymore diamonds (please don’t think I make a habit of doing that anyway) as they might be conflict diamonds. So I was hoping that when humans finally set foot on Mars (NASA is planning a sample-return trip to the Red Planet by 2018 the words uttered would not be “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” but more like “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for womankind, cos there’s a whole lotta glittering diamonds in this red dust we’ve just stepped on”.

Alas, according to New Scientist, Ghiringhelli and Frenkel’s study shows that Neptune and Uranus simply don’t have enough carbon to make diamonds. Both planets only contain 1 to 2% carbon and, for diamonds to form, about 15% carbon is needed. Guess that means Mars too. A girl’s only hope apparently is white dwarf stars.

White dwarfs are burnt out suns and the dense core left behind after a sun has its melt down could contain as much as 50% carbon. If the white dwarf is young and hot, the carbon would exist in liquid form and is almost like a liquid diamond. As the dwarf cools down, the liquid starts to crystallise into a diamond. It’s possible that the white dwarf called BPM 37093 could have a moon sized crystal at is core. Now, this is encouraging: perhaps there are lots of white dwarfs out there with glittering diamond cores. I can just imagine this inspiring space-themed engagement rings – instead of the traditional diamond solitaire, perhaps a ring in the shape of a comet; or a large round diamond with gold wire encasing the diamond, like a dwarf core spitting dust and material as it dies.

But the diamond industry and bling buffs like me shouldn’t get too excited about all this – after all, setting up a diamond mine on a distant dwarf would be some feat and the dense gravity would probably crush you. Stating the obvious Frenkel says: “Don’t send a rocket out to these stars.. the diamond is too expensive to get, apart from the fact that it’s very hard to get something off a white dwarf.”

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Entry filed under: Astronomy, Bling, Space.

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