Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery, uncovering a new phase of superionic ice referred to as Ice XIX. This finding not only deepens our comprehension of the magnetic fields of ice giants like Uranus and Neptune but also sheds light on the vast universe beyond our solar system.
Superionic ice, a peculiar form of ice that exists in a hybrid state between solid and liquid, is believed to be abundant throughout the universe. It fills the interiors of ice giants and similar exoplanets, providing valuable clues about the composition and behavior of these celestial bodies.
The recent study, conducted by a team of researchers, involved subjecting thin slices of water to highly intense laser beams, resulting in extreme pressure and temperatures that surpassed previous experiments. By analyzing the resulting diffraction patterns, the scientists were able to unlock the crystal structure of Ice XIX, which exhibits different properties compared to the previously observed superionic ice, Ice XVIII.
One notable distinction of Ice XIX is its enhanced conductivity. Conductivity is a crucial factor as it allows for the movement of charged particles, which in turn generates magnetic fields. With its higher conductivity, Ice XIX may promote the generation of multipolar magnetic fields akin to those observed in ice giants like Uranus and Neptune.
The significance of this discovery goes beyond just the understanding of ice giants. It contributes to a more comprehensive knowledge of the phase diagram of water, particularly under the extreme pressure and temperature conditions present in water-rich exoplanets such as Neptune.
Furthermore, this breakthrough finding supports the dynamo theory, which illustrates how magnetic fields arise from the movement of conductive fluids. The unusual magnetic fields observed in ice giants can now be more readily explained, thanks to the newfound understanding of superionic ice and its conductive nature.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, builds upon previous research from 2019 that initially confirmed the existence and crystal structure of superionic ice. These discoveries are crucial steps forward in the field of planetary science, unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos and bringing us closer to comprehending the vast, enigmatic world beyond our own.
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