Nearly five billion years ago, the giant gaseous planets Jupiter and Saturn formed, apparently in radically different ways.So says a scientist at the Laboratory who created exhaustive computer models based on experiments in which the element hydrogen was shocked to pressures nearly as great as those found inside the two planets.
Working with a French colleague, Didier Saumon of Material Science (X-7) created models establishing that heavy elements are concentrated in Saturns massive core, while those same elements are mixed throughout Jupiter, with very little or no central core at all. The study, published in this weeks Astrophysical Journal, showed that refractory elements such as iron, silicon, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are concentrated in Saturns core, but are diffused in Jupiter, leading to a hypothesis that they were formed through different processes.
Saumon collected data from several recent shock compression experiments that have showed how hydrogen behaves at pressures a million times greater than atmospheric pressure, approaching those present in the gas giants. These experiments- performed over the past several years at U.S. national labs and in Russia- have for the first time permitted accurate measurements of the so-called equation of state of simple fluids, such as hydrogen, within the high-pressure and high-density realm where ionization occurs for deuterium, the isotope made of a hydrogen atom with an additional neutron.
Jim Danneskiold | EurekAlert!
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