Magnetic Shields May Protect Life On Super-Earths

WASHINGTON (TIP): Super-Earths could have oceans of liquid metal and life-protecting magnetic shields, scientists say. Under the heat and pressure that exist inside super- Earths, magnesium oxide and other minerals commonly found in the rocky mantles of the terrestrial planets, transform into liquid metals, laboratory tests have shown, Discovery News reported. Super-Earths are planets beyond the solar system that are bigger than Earth but smaller than gas giants like Neptune.

The research has implications for understanding conditions on super-Earths, including whether they might be favourable for supporting life. Scientists zapped a piece of magnesium oxide with highpowered lasers to simulate the heat and pressure that would exist on planets roughly three to 10 times as massive as Earth. They discovered that the clear ceramic mineral first morphed into a solid with a new crystal structure, then completely transformed into a liquid metal.

In that state, the liquid mineral may be able to sustain a physics phenomenon called a “dynamo” action, which is responsible for generating magnetic fields.

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Volume 10 Issue 41 | New York | Oct 21

Print Edition ~ Digitally   Issue 41 ~ NYC ~ Oct 21  
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