It really is raining diamonds on Jupiter, as actor Jaden Smith was so keen to point out, but in reality, that small tidbit is but a single gem in a treasure trove of weird space weather facts. Envision a place where temperatures are so hot that they melt fool’s gold on towering mountain tops, a destination where storms rage on for centuries, and gemstone-covered glaciers glide across the surface. Can you take the heat of a 900-degree-Fahrenheit planet? Do you know about gas storms that happen every time a star dies? Can you imagine a place that storms so many magnetized crystals that you can see its surface glow for actual light years?
These occurrences are far from fiction. They’re a description of some of the wackiest weather in outer space. These climates are hostile, to say the least, but there’s a chance that, somewhere out there, some microorganism sees this weather as just a regular aspect of their environment.
We study space weather so thoroughly because it is one of the keys to finding out if we are, in fact, alone in the universe. Here’s a look at the zaniest intergalactic climates we’ve come across so far and what they say about those endless possibilities.
The next time you gape through the hole of a telescope, keep your eyes peeled for the cerulean celestial body that gets its indescribably beautiful blue hue from its rain. As it turns out, this exoplanet is raining horizontal glass shards at a rate of 4,349 miles per hour.
As this glass pours from the sky at unfathomable speeds, the light reflection makes the planet look like it is covered in water. What a terrifyingly deceptive space storm.
So it turns out that it really does rain diamonds on Jupiter; however, diamond storms aren't restricted to that planet alone. Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus also experiences the unique storms.
How do diamond rainstorms happen? Lightning on the planets converts methane gas into carbon and, when that carbon hardens, it eventually takes on the form of a diamond. While Jupiter and Saturn have very hot core temperatures that can eventually melt the gems, diamonds tend to remain solid on planets with colder cores, like Neptune and Uranus.
According to NASA, hot flow anomalies "cause a temporary reversal of the solar wind that normally moves past a planet." Essentially, they create a giant space explosion. HFAs, as they're known, occur on many planets, including Earth. On Earth, these anomalies occur in the magnetosphere, far above the planet's surface. But Venus has no magnetic field and no magnetosphere, so the HFAs occur much closer to the planet's surface.
The atmosphere on Venus is so thick that spacecraft don't last more than a few hours on its surface before being crushed. Because of this, we don't know how these HFAs affect the planet, but NASA scientist Glyn Collinson shared some ideas with NASA.com:
"At Earth, HFAs have a big effect, but don't necessarily rule the roost," says Collinson. "But at Venus, since the HFA happens right up next to the planet, it is going to have a more dramatic effect on the system."
Large space explosions occur close to the surface of Venus - and we don't know what effect this has on the planet.
Scientists call this phenomenon the Great Red Spot. It’s the biggest storm in the recorded history of the solar system. So just how big is it? Well that depends on whether you're measuring its size, temperature, wind strength, or duration. All of those components are extremely colossal, but, when combined, its sheer magnitude is the epitome of zany space weather.
The Great Red Spot has been raging for 300 years and counting. Anticyclonic in nature and complete with tornadoes and acoustic waves, it was once more than two times the size of Earth - but it's becoming smaller and smaller over time. It swirls counterclockwise at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.
To be fair, this is just one red hot scorcher of a storm, but researching it serves several scientific purposes. Upon more recent observation, it has become apparent that sound waves from this great space anticyclone are heating its upper atmosphere to the tune of over 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. This newly discovered piece of the puzzle could explain why some planets appear hotter than any temperature sunlight alone could achieve. Some scientists speculate that the heat from this storm is warming the entire planet of Jupiter.