For some planets, diamonds aren’t a rarity — they’re the foundation of existence.
New research published late last month in the Planetary Science Journal has found that exoplanets with the right ratio of carbon and oxygen would be made primarily of diamonds and the natural compound silica.
“These exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system,” lead author Harrison Allen-Sutter of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration said in a press release.
The discovery comes as scientists, enabled by more and more information from recent space missions, are able to put together the pieces and understand what planets far beyond our Earth look like.
While Earth’s diamond content is approximately 0.0001%, researchers now believe that exoplanets that surround stars with a higher carbon-to-oxygen ratio are likely more carbon-rich and, assuming the presence of water, may have an extremely diamond-heavy makeup.
The science behind this hypothesis is extremely nuanced, but researchers were able to test their theory here by monitoring what happens while silicon carbide and water is sandwiched between diamonds at very high pressure. The complicated experiment, which also involved laser heating and X-ray measurements, successfully turned silicon carbide into diamonds, as well as silica.
While they now have further evidence that diamond planets do or at least can exist, scientists do not believe that such worlds are capable of sustaining life.
“Regardless of habitability, this is one additional step in helping us understand and characterize our ever-increasing and improving observations of exoplanets,” said Allen-Sutter. “The more we learn, the better we’ll be able to interpret new data from upcoming future missions, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, to understand the worlds beyond on our own solar system.”
In 2012, astronomers believed they discovered one such planet made of diamonds, and it was so close to our world it was visible to the naked eye.