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The Question

(Submitted April 16, 1997)

Do scientists still believe diamonds may be "found" at center of Uranus?

The Answer

The theoretical consideration of a diamond at the core of the gas giant planets of the solar system has been around for over a decade.

One of the first papers I can find is:

Title: High pressure cosmochemistry applied to major planetary interiors: Experimental studies
Authors: NICOL, M. F.; JOHNSON, M.; KOUMVAKALIS, A. S.
Affiliation: California Univ., Los Angeles.
Journal: Status Report California Univ., Los Angeles. Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Publication Date: 11/1984

though a coworker and I both recall a 1982(?) paper entitled "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which I couldn't find a reference to.

I believe that the possibility was first applied to Jupiter, but later extended to all the outer gas giants of the solar system.

Most of the chemical research involving diamonds in the solar system (outside of the Earth) deals with microdiamonds found in asteroids (and hence meteors and meteorites). These are created in the high heat and pressure of the collisions which create these rocky fragments.

Galileo, a recent NASA mission to the planet Jupiter, fired a small probe into Jupiter's atmosphere. The probe was never meant to survive long enough to reach any possible solid core, so it couldn't really provide any proof of the theories that diamonds might exist at the center of planets like Jupiter. Still, you might want to check out their homepage at:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/

Regards,
Mike Arida
for the Ask an Astrophysicist Team

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