Celestial cousins

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

A team of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has successfully recreated the conditions inside the planets Neptune and Uranus. They managed to squeeze a tiny sample of methane to pressures that are 500,000 times the atmospheric pressure and heated the sample to almost 3,000C. By analysing the sample through X-ray and infrared detectors, the researchers found that some of the methane is converted to small diamonds 10 micrometres in size as well as some polymers. Surprisingly, this happened at pressures much lower than expected. These results have led planetary scientists to reconsider their theories of the internal structure of these outer planets ( Science , Vol 286, No 5437).

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