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New Planets: Learnings on The Minerals In Their Mantles

Sep 03, 2015 04:26 PM EDT
Crystal Structure of Magnesium Peroxide
Recent studies found that magnesium peroxide may be abundant in extremely oxidized mantles and cores of rocky planets outside our Solar System.
(Photo : Sergey Lobanov)

With recent discoveries of new planets, three researchers with the Carnegie Institution found themselves interested in what the insides of those planets might look like and how they compare to Earth. According to their recent study published in Scientific Reports, other planets could have abundant compounds of magnesium, in comparison to Earth.

Oxygen and magnesium are abundant compounds found in Earth's mantle, but that doesn't necessarily mean the same circumstances can be assumed for other planets outside our solar system. In fact, according to a news release, stars that have rocky planets are known to vary in chemical composition. The chemical makeup of these stars greatly affects that of surrounding planets. 

"Our findings suggest that magnesium peroxide may be abundant in extremely oxidized mantles and cores of rocky planets outside our Solar System," Sergey Lobanov, lead author of the paper, said in the release. "When we develop theories about distant planets, it's important that we don't assume their chemistry and mineralogy is Earth-like."

Magnesium peroxide (MgO2) can be formed in laboratory settings under high-oxygen concentrations. When it is heated it becomes highly unstable, which would be the case for planets' interiors.

The researchers tested to see if they could mimic planet interiors by subjecting magnesium oxide (MgO) and oxygen to drastically increased atmospheric pressures and temperatures. When then two reacted they produced magnesium peroxide.

"These findings provide yet another example of the ways that high-pressure laboratory experiments can teach us about not only our own planet, but potentially about distant ones as well," researcher Alexander Goncharov added. "But this new information about its chemical reactivity under high pressure means that such experimental uses of MgO need to be revised, because it they could be creating unwanted reactions and affecting results."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN). 

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