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#Science

Distant planets may have different interior chemistry than Earth

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Determining the chemistry of distant planets is a step towards finding whether the planet is habitable or not. Researchers have suggested through a new research that planets orbiting distant stars are likely to have a chemical composition that is different from Earth.

The findings are the results of a study carried out by a team of scientists including three from Carnegie Institute. Researchers have suggested that the chemical composition of distant planets is dependent on the stars they are orbiting and thus when scientists are predicting the chemical compositions of rocky, terrestrial planets outside of our own Solar System, they shouldn’t assume that other rocky planets would have Earth-like mantle mineralogy.

 This is the crystal structure of magnesium peroxide, MgO2, courtesy of Sergey Lobanov, created using K. Momma's program for drawing crystal structures. Credit: Sergey Lobanov


This is the crystal structure of magnesium peroxide, MgO2, courtesy of Sergey Lobanov, created using K. Momma’s program for drawing crystal structures. Credit: Sergey Lobanov

There have been instances where elevated levels of oxygen has been observed in distant stars which are being orbited by rocky planets. This means that the planets could be more oxidized than Earth and this will directly impact the makeup of the planet.

Researcher used oxygen and magnesium, which are abundant in Earth’s interior, researchers demonstrated through their scientific experiments that high pressure and temperature conditions would lead to chemical reactions between magnesium oxide and oxygen to form magnesium peroxide. The other wise stable magnesium oxide reacts with oxygen at 96 gigapascals and temperature sof 3,410 degrees Fahrenheit (2,150 Kelvin) in lab setup suggesting that this is a highly likely scenario in real-world conditions in distant planetary systems.

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