Scientists have reconstructed the structure of ice that forms at the cores of planets such as Neptune and Uranus. “Superionic ice” is the name given to this type of ice. It occurs under severe temperatures and pressures, such as those found deep within planets like Neptune and Uranus. Scientists had only seen superionic ice for a split second when they pushed a shockwave through a droplet of water. But in new research published in Nature Physics, they discovered a means to consistently make, sustain, and analyze the ice.
Everyone expected this phase wouldn’t exist until considerably greater pressures than where we originally discovered it. Therefore it was a surprise according to the researcher Vitali Prakapenka. They were able to very precisely map the features of this new ice, which forms a new phase of matter.
The scientists created superionic ice by pressing water between two diamonds, the hardest substance on Earth. To simulate the tremendous pressure seen in planets’ cores. The Advanced Photon Source/high-brightness X-ray beams fire a laser through the diamonds, heating the water.
Because it interacts with light differently, the ice becomes less thick yet substantially darker.
These ice qualities influence a planet’s magnetic fields, which have a significant impact on its capacity to support life. Earth’s massive magnetic fields shield humans from damaging incoming radiation and cosmic rays. The team claims that understanding the variables that influence magnetic field development may benefit scientists in their quest for stars and planets in other solar systems that could support life.
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