It’s raining diamonds! According to some researchers the heat, pressure and chemical conditions on Saturn and Jupiter may be conducive to the production of diamonds – diamonds that may rain down through the atmosphere.
This research, reported by David Reneke on his World of Space and Astronomy, was recently presented at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences held in Denver, Colorado.
This research opens up new and interesting ways to look at the composition and mineral wealth of the solar system.
The Cassini was launched in 1997 to study Saturn and its moons. It contains a battery of scientific instruments that have been sending back data about the Saturn system since 2004.
Reported by BBC News, Cassini recently sent back information that it detected on Saturn’s moon, Titan, propene or propylene – a building block of POLYPROPYLENE – a commonly used plastic. What makes this discovery special is that it is the first time this constituent of polypropylene has been found anywhere outside of Earth.
On Earth, this molecule, which comprises three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, is a constituent of many plastics.
It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world, says the US space agency.
Other interesting chemicals detected on Titan include propane, and ethylene – a constituent of another common polymer – polyethylene.
This is only part of the chemical story. NASA scientists hypothesize that Saturn’s huge magnetic field and the effects of the sun’s ultra-violet light may yield more exotic chemistry on Titan and Saturn’s other moons.
Saturn’s moon,Titan, eclipsing Tethys, another one of Saturn’s sixty-two moons
In chemistry class, we have all had to draw (and have been tested on) the schema of molecules. Recently scientists at UC Berkeley have been able to image a single molecule and to see it rearrange its atomic bonds. The resulting AFM images, look a lot like those little stick drawings I referred to.
A ringed, carbon-containing molecule, shown both before and after it has rearranged itself, with the two most common reaction products included. The scale bars measure 3 angstroms, or three ten-billionths of a meter, across. Image and Caption: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley
I think the images are amazing and elegant. There are more images here at WIRED Magazine.
This breakthrough was described in Science in May 30, 2013.