When researchers examine meteorites, they often find them sprinkled with teeny tiny diamonds – 25,000 times smaller than a grain of sand. In fact, these nanodiamonds make up 3% of the carbon found in meteorites. Astronomers think diamonds might actually be common out there in the Universe, and they’ve developed a new technique to find them.
The first hint of space diamonds came in the 1980s, when scientists studying meteorites discovered they were sprinkled with nanometer-sized diamonds. This has to be an indication of the environment of the stellar environment where the meteorites formed. There could be 10,000 trillion particles in a single gram of dust and gas.
Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center developed a computer simulation that simulated the conditions of the interstellar medium that would be rich in nanodiamonds. According to their simulation, clouds with these particles should be visible to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
The diamonds haven’t been seen in space because astronomers haven’t been looking in the right places. Since it takes a lot of high-energy ultraviolet light to make the diamonds shine, the researchers think Spitzer should be examining the environments around very hot, young stars, which produce large amounts of ultraviolet radiation.
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Here on Earth, diamonds are formed by the intense heat and pressure of the Earth’s interior working over long periods. So how can they form in space? Instead of the heat and pressure we have on Earth, their environment is the exact opposite: diffuse clouds of cold molecular gas.
Astronomers aren’t sure, but now that they’ve got a technique to spot them with Spitzer, they’ll be studying gas clouds to understand the common conditions.
Original Source: NASA/Spitzer News Release