News ID: 198433
Published: 0446 GMT August 12, 2017

Scientists predict chemicals hiding beneath Neptune's icy surface

Scientists predict chemicals hiding beneath Neptune's icy surface
An image of Neptune captured in 1989.

Thanks to a new computer model, planetary scientists now have a better idea of the types of chemicals hiding beneath Neptune's icy surface.

Often, scientists attempt to replicate planetary conditions in the lab, but Neptune is home to extreme pressures and temperatures, making such a method difficult, UPI reported.

Instead, scientists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland developed a model to simulate Neptune's high pressure and extreme cold.

The simulations allowed researchers to study how different chemicals might behave in a frozen state inside Neptune's mantle.

Specifically, scientists were able to simulate interactions between water, ammonia and methane under the ice giant's extreme internal conditions.

Andreas Hermann, researcher at Edinburgh's Center for Science at Extreme Conditions, said, "Computer models are a great tool to study these extreme places and we are now building on this study to get an even more complete picture of what goes on there.”

The simulations suggest Neptune and other ice giants yield a rare and little-understood compound called ammonia hemihydrate.

The findings could help planetary scientists at NASA prepare for future missions to icy giants.

Hermann added, "This study helps us better predict what is inside icy planets like Neptune.

"Our findings suggest that ammonia hemihydrate could be an important component of the mantle in ice giants, and will help improve our understanding of these frozen worlds."

Researchers shared the details of their chemical simulations in new paper published in the journal PNAS.

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