Lasers squeezed iron to mimic the conditions of exoplanet cores

laser and exoplanet
UNDER PRESSURE Using lasers, scientists compressed iron to high pressures that are likely found in large, rocky exoplanets’ cores. Here, an image of inside the laser chamber is shown with an artist’s rendering of an exoplanet.

Physicists have simulated the cores of some large rocky exoplanets by pummeling iron with lasers. The resulting measurements give the first clue to how iron might behave inside planets outside the solar system that are several times the mass of Earth, researchers report April 16 in Nature Astronomy.

“Until now, there’s been no data available on the state of these materials at the center of large exoplanets,” says Ray Smith, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Working at the National Ignition Facility, Smith and his colleagues aimed 176 lasers at a pellet of iron a few micrometers thick wrapped in a gold cylinder. The lasers delivered enough energy over 30 billionths of a second to compress the iron to pressures up to 14 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure at…

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