Some places in the Solar System have some pretty expensive rain falling on their surface. Let’s see if we could bring those home.
What would it take for Earth to have million-dollar hail dropping from the sky? How rich would it make you? And why would you need medieval armor to survive?
It rains diamonds on Saturn, Jupiter, and maybe on Uranus and Neptune too. On Saturn, it’s the combination of lightning, carbon and atmospheric pressure that makes it drop diamonds from the sky.
First, dramatic lightning storms turn methane in Saturn’s atmosphere into graphite. Then, the very high atmospheric pressure turns the graphite into diamonds. Then, the uncut gems rain down to Saturn’s center until they get liquified by the planet’s extreme temperatures.
Now that we know the recipe, how would we go about pulling this off on our planet? And what would it be like to live on a planet with such precious precipitation?
Diamonds are some of the hardest materials found on Earth. The only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond.
Now imagine those gemstones falling down from the sky. It wouldn’t be anything like that. More like this.
A diamond rain would bring total destruction down to Earth. The falling gems would be tiny a like a pebble, or small like a baseball. But because of their sharp, jagged edges, and because of the speed at which diamonds would be falling from the sky, even the tiniest diamond hitting your car would be like hitting it with a baseball bat.
They’d break all your car windows, and the windows of your home. They’d damage streets and highways. And they could injure or even kill you.
Meteorologists would have a hard time predicting a jewel thunderstorm. If you wanted to stay safe, you wouldn’t leave your house without a helmet, or maybe even metal clothes. It’d be awkward to walk around in those, but at least you wouldn’t get killed by a diamond.
Saturn produces almost a million kilograms (2,000,000 lbs) of diamonds every year. If the Earth had such a rich supply of gems, they’d stop being so rare and desirable, and their market price would plunge down. At least you could afford to give your girlriend an engagement ring with one big diamond on it.
But diamonds wouldn’t just be used in jewelry. Because of their abundance, we would start using them for anything we could think of. We’d build diamond houses, design diamond furniture, we could even pave our roads with diamonds. What a shiny world it would be.
Unfortunately, getting hit by a diamond wouldn’t be your biggest concern. As we figured earlier, an important ingredient for a diamond rain is methane.
On Earth, the amount of methane in the atmosphere is equivalent to two cups of water in a swimming pool. Plus, to turn methane into graphite, and then into diamonds, Earth’s atmospheric pressure would need to be about 1,000 times higher.
If it rained diamonds on Earth, you’d wouldn’t be around to see it. All of humanity would be squashed, and left to suffocate without oxygen in the air.
- “Gas Giants: Facts About The Outer Planets”. Howell, Elizabeth. 2018. space.com.
- “‘Diamond rain’ falls on Saturn and Jupiter”. James Morgan, 2020. BBC News.
- “TOP 10 FACTS ABOUT DIAMONDS YOU DIDN’T KNOW “. 2017. Cape Town Diamond Museum.
- “Methane, explained”. ALEJANDRA BORUNDA, 2019. nationalgeographic.com.
- “On Neptune, It’s Raining Diamonds”. DOMINIK KRAUS, 2018. American Scientist.
- “It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune”. Sarah Kaplan , 2018. American Scientist.
- “Diamond Industry – Statistics & Facts”. 2020. Statista.