News of the WeekPlanetary Science

Neptune May Crush Methane Into Diamonds

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Science  01 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5437, pp. 25
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5437.25a

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Laboratory researchers simulating the hellish interiors of Neptune and Uranus, where heat and pressures can be far more intense than in the depths of Earth, are finding, among other surprises, tiny flecks of diamond. On page 100 of this issue of Science, a mineral physicist and her colleagues report that methane--a major constituent of Neptune and Uranus's deep interiors--decomposes far more easily than predicted when it is heated and squeezed in the laboratory. That decomposition, which produces diamonds and complex organic matter, could have altered the chemical composition and internal churning of those planets.