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Does it rain on other planets?

Here on Earth, we are used to a certain type of weather. It can be unpredictable and scary at times, but at least we know that everything that falls from our atmosphere to the ground is water in one form or another. Therefore, you would be excused for thinking of “water” when considering the question of rain on other planets. But you’d be wrong anyway: Earth is the only planet that has liquid water. In fact, there is rain that falls from the clouds on other planets, but it is not water. Not even close.

Let’s start with perhaps the most intriguing substance that could be raining down on various planets. diamonds Yes, diamonds. About 1,000 tons (907 metric tons) a year fall on Saturn [source: Morgan]. But before you start devising a way to make a fortune collecting diamonds in outer space, we must tell you that this is not a cold hard fact. It’s still an unpublished theory, a theory of planetary scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but not proven.

According to the findings, rain of diamonds it falls on Saturn, Neptune and Jupiter, among others, but Saturn could have the best conditions for it. Saturn’s intense electrical storms (10 lightning strikes per second!) and extremely high temperatures can cause methane molecules in its atmosphere to break apart, leaving carbon atoms free-floating and beginning to fall to the ground. [source: Jaramillo]. They transform into graphite as they travel through Saturn’s dense, stratified atmosphere and eventually pressurize into tiny diamond pieces (most are less than a millimeter in diameter). [source: Fernandez]. But around 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers), things get too hot and the diamonds break down into a soft liquid. [source: Dottaro].

You don’t like diamonds? Head to Venus for a refreshing and incredibly hot sulfuric acid rain. Venus’ atmosphere is full of clouds of sulfuric acid, but because the planet’s surface hovers at a balmy 894 degrees Fahrenheit (480 Celsius), the rain only comes within 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) of the surface before to become a rain. gas [source: Hammonds].

On Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, there are icy methane storms. Just as Earth has a water cycle, Titan has a methane cycle: there are seasonal rains, the methane rain fills the lakes, the lakes eventually evaporate, and the vapor rises into the clouds, starting all over again. Methane is in its liquid form on Titan because the surface temperature is extremely cold -290 degrees F (minus 179 C) [source: Space.com]. There are also mountains of solid ice on Titan.

These cases are just the beginning of the conversation about rain on other planets. We didn’t even go in dry ice snow on Mars, liquid helium rain on Jupiter, and plasma rain on the Sun. It’s a fascinating thing, but we’ll leave the horrible meat-melting precipitation to the rest of the solar system, please. We are well caught with warm rainwater.

Originally published: September 3, 2014

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