This giant laser can simulate a planet’s core

How do you study the innards of alien worlds? You just need the world’s largest laser.

Subscribe and turn on notifications 🔔 so you don’t miss any videos: http://goo.gl/0bsAjO

As astronomers search for life outside our solar system, they have to try and answer one big question: What’s the recipe for a habitable planet? We tend to think about the ingredients we encounter every day: liquid water, the protective blanket of the atmosphere, a sun that is neither too warm nor too hot. But there are other factors that are probably equally important: Earth’s cooled and hardened crust, its gooey molten guts, its magnetic field, its volcanoes and deep sea vents. These are the features that fostered life as we know it – they were shaped by unseen processes hidden deep within the globe.

In short, if we want to learn how life could arise on other planets, we need to know what’s going on under the hood.

But that’s easier said than done. As you drill down into a planet, temperatures and pressures quickly rise. Scientists and their tools wouldn’t survive a few dozen miles down, let alone a few thousand. So how can they study the insides of planets?

Enter NIF and OMEGA – by some measure, the two largest lasers in the world. They inhabit large warehouse-style buildings, and focus scores of intense laser beams onto the head of a pin. When facilities like these were first imagined, the goal was to create nuclear fusion – but planetary scientists quickly realized they could be used to investigate matter under core-like conditions.

The last decade has seen a flood of experiments – and the results have been bizarre. Nickel, a metal that conducts electricity, turns into an insulator. Water forms a hot, conductive ice. Hydrogen becomes a metallic fluid. Sodium, normally a shiny opaque metal, goes completely clear. These startling insights are helping scientists understand how planets form, and how they might evolve to support life.

Presented by the Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures (CMAP) at the University of Rochester,
a National Science Foundation (NSF) Physics Frontier Center, Award PHY-2020249 https://www.rochester.edu/cmap

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.

Further reading:

The Materials Scientist Who Studies the Innards of Exoplanets

Tanja Kovačević’s 2022 study of rock and ice mixing inside exoplanets:

Rick Kraus’s 2022 study of iron inside Super Earths:

What’s Happening In The Depths Of Distant Worlds?

Everything you always wanted to know about metallic hydrogen but were afraid to ask

NIF scientists observe metallic hydrogen

OMEGA research on sodium under extreme pressures

OMEGA research on Jupiter’s hydrogen oceans

Make sure you never miss behind the scenes content in the Vox Video newsletter, sign up here: http://vox.com/video-newsletter

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com

Support Vox’s reporting with a one-time or recurring contribution: http://vox.com/contribute-now

Shop the Vox merch store: http://vox.com/store

Watch our full video catalog: http://goo.gl/IZONyE

Follow Vox on Facebook: http://facebook.com/vox
Follow Vox on Twitter: http://twitter.com/voxdotcom
Follow Vox on TikTok: http://tiktok.com/@voxdotcom

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

SciShow Preview
RSA Insights: The Heritage Index
The Furnace Bots | Think Like A Coder, Ep 3
Fire Pong (Rule Zero) – Computerphile
Moiré Illusion Cards #shorts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *