“Beyond Anything Found in Our Solar System” (Weekend Feature)


Diamond exoplanet

“The discovery of planets is the discovery of life,” said Natalie Batala, a Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center. In search of habitable planets like Earth, sometimes something really strange pops up, unlike anything in our solar system.

“Exoplanet Era” officially began in October 1995, when Nobel-prize Michel Mayer and Didier Quelos The first discovery of a planet outside of our solar system was detected, an exoplanet, a solar-type star orbiting in our home galaxy, the Milky Way – Planet 51 Pegasi B, a gaseous ball that is the largest gas giant in the Solar System , Is comparable with Jupiter. His discovery triggered a revolution in astronomy and more than 4,100 exoplanets have been found in the Milky Way. And strange new worlds are being discovered almost daily.

Milky Way’s “Extremely Extreme Life”

One of those strange “somethings” was announced by a team of researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Chicago, with a new study published in The Planetary Science Journal. The team determined that some carbon-rich exoplanets, given the right conditions, could be made of diamonds and silica. “These exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system,” says lead author Harrison Allen-Sutter of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Diamond worlds

When stars and planets are formed, they do so with the same cloud of gas, so their bulk compositions are the same. A star with a low carbon to oxygen ratio would have planets like Earth, which would contain silicates and oxides with very low diamond content (about 0.001% of the Earth’s diamond content).

But we are more likely to contain exoplanet carbon around stars with a higher carbon ratio than the Sun. Allen-Sutter and co-authors hypothesized that these carbon-enriched exoplanets could turn into diamonds and silicates, if water (which is abundant in the universe) were present, forming a diamond-rich conformation.

“Island World” – an entirely new range of exoplanets

Hypothesis testing

To test this hypothesis, the research team needed to mimic the interior of a carbide exoplanet using high heat and high pressure. To do this, he used high-pressure diamond-anvil cells in co-author Shim’s laboratory for material from Earth and planets. First, they dipped silicon carbide in water and compacted the sample between diamonds at very high pressures. Then, to monitor the reaction between silicon carbide and water, they conducted laser heating at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, taking X-ray measurements while the laser heated the sample at high pressure.

As they predicted, with high heat and pressure, silicon carbide reacted with water and turned to diamond and silica.

“Survival proof”

Some astronomers have said that it is irrelevant whether there are other forms of life discovered in the Milky Way or other galaxies. The fact is that we provide ‘survival proof’ here as it is said in mathematics. But as of now, the search continues. Planetary scientists and astronomers are using sophisticated instruments in space and on Earth to find the right planets and planets with the correct location around their stars where life can exist.

“Neighboring alien planets may be in the ‘early-Earth’ phase of life” -Karl Sagan Institute

For the carbon-rich planets that are the focus of this study, however, they do not have the necessary properties for life. While the Earth is geologically active (an indicator habitat), the results of this study suggest that carbon-rich planets are too hard to be geologically active and that a lack of geological activity can make atmospheric composition uninhabitable. The atmosphere is important to life because it provides us with air to breathe, protection from the harsh environment of space and even pressure to allow liquid water.

“Regardless of the habit, this is an extra step to help us enhance and improve the exoplanets’ comments,” says Allen-Sutter. “The more we learn, the better we will be able to interpret new data from upcoming future missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope so that the world can be understood beyond our solar system.”

The Daily Galaxy, Sam Cabot via Arizona State University

Image Credit: Shutterstock License