University of Minnesota researchers Renata Wentzcovitch and Koichiro Umemoto and Philip B. Allen of Stony Brook University have modeled the properties of rocks at the temperatures and pressures likely to exist at the cores of Jupiter, Saturn and two exoplanets far from the solar system. They show that rocks in these environments are different from those on Earth and have metallic-like electric and thermal conductivity. These properties can produce different terrestrial-type planets, with longer-lasting magnetic fields, enhanced heat flow to the planetary surfaces and, consequently, more intense "planetquake" and volcanic activity.
This work builds on the authors recent work on Earths inner layers and represents a step toward understanding how all planets, including Earth, come to acquire their individual characteristics. The research is published in the Feb. 17 issue of Science. In the previous work, Wentzcovitch and her colleagues studied the D ("Dee double prime") layer deep in the Earth. D runs from zero to 186 miles thick and surrounds the iron core of our planet. It lies just below Earths mantle, which is largely composed of a mineral called perovskite, consisting of magnesium, silicon and oxygen. Wentzcovitch and her team calculated that in D the great temperatures and pressures changed the structure of perovskite crystals, transforming the mineral into one called "post-perovskite."
In the new work, the researchers turned their attention to the cores of the giant planets of our solar system--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune--and two recently discovered extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, found elsewhere in the Milky Way. One, referred to as Super-Earth, is about seven times the mass of Earth and orbits a star 15 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The other, Dense-Saturn, has about the same mass as Saturn and orbits a star 257 light-years away in the constellation Hercules.
Mark Cassutt | EurekAlert!
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