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New Research Teases Possibility of Radiation Shields Making Super-Earths Friendly for Life

Earth - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.01.2022
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Super-Earths is a name for a certain class of planets that are much larger than our green planet but are also lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus.
It is possible that giant planets called super-Earths can have a magnetosphere - a shield of radiation that makes life possible on our planet - and new research by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California appears to have found a way to tap into that chance.
Richard Kraus and his colleagues from the laboratory used one of the world's most energetic lasers at the lab's National Ignition Facility in order to recreate the pressure at the centre of these so-called super-Earths, according to a report in New Scientist.
This helped them better understand the conditions under which iron melts in these planets - something that is crucial to know in order to determine whether a certain planet can have its own magnetosphere and how long its protection would last.

"We mapped out the melting curve…to nearly four times greater pressure than anyone had studied before", Kraus said, as cited by the outlet. "Then we were able to address the question of how much heat a liquid iron core needs to lose in order for it to fully solidify".

According to his team's conclusions, planets four to six times the mass of Earth retain liquid metal cores the longest. This makes it possible for super-Earths to have long-lasting magnetospheres and potentially be habitable.
Per Guillaume Morard of the University of Grenoble Alpes in France, the measurements are important for a better understanding of exoplanets and Earth's core, along with the strength and duration of the planet's magnetosphere.

"I think it's a first step", says Morard. "But to know exactly how the magnetic fields of these large planets work, there will need to be more modelling on what is going on inside the mantle of the planets".

The Earth's magnetosphere shields our planet from harmful solar and cosmic particle radiation, as well as erosion of the atmosphere by solar wind. It is being "fuelled" by the molten iron within the planet's outer core that generates the system of magnetic fields capable of keeping the planet safe.
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