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-Farenheit planet? Do you know of the 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.
Could it be that someone lives out there in the eye of a great space storm? 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, or if we have... shall we say, company. 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. Diamond showers are extremely common in outer space. In fact, NASA JL representative Kevin Baines told BBC News that it rains about 2.2 million pounds of diamonds in space every year.
How do diamond rainstorms happen? Well, the lightning on other planets converts methane gas into carbon, and, when that carbon hardens, it eventually takes on the form of a diamond. What makes Jupiter (and notably Saturn) different is their sheer inability to melt the hard constructs of the gemstones. For this reason, it is suspected that the aforementioned planets might have diamond oceans flowing and diamond glaciers gliding through their atmosphere, making them possible treasure troves for future space pirates. It gets stranger...
Planet Vesta, the second largest minor planet on the asteroid belt, is believed to be covered in magnetized crystals that make it glow in such a way that it can sometimes even be seen from Earth. Meanwhile, 1,350 light years from our dull-in-comparison planet, emerald peridots fall from the stars in the constellation Orion. Is it any wonder that the mysteries of the universe are literally hidden gems?
The atmosphere on Venus is 100 times denser than the atmosphere on Earth. If you were to visit Venus, the air around you would be so stiff that you would feel like you were moving through an ocean rather than maneuvering over a solid surface. What's most bewildering, though, is that the pressure of the everyday air on Venus is comparable to or even exceeds the pressure Earth-dwelling deep sea divers experience when they reach the lowest depths humanly possible in the ocean.
This hostile atmosphere keeps Venus burning at approximately 900°F, a temperature so hot that the sky itself explodes from time to time.
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.
Due to Jupiter’s idiosyncratic composition, the average storm on this planet rages on for approximately 150 years. That’s light work in the eye of this storm, though. The Great Red Spot has been going strong for 400 years and counting. Anticyclonic in nature and complete with tornadoes and acoustic waves, it is three times the size of Earth. It swirls counterclockwise at a speed of 120 meters per second.
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.