Always a mystery, the sixth planet of our Solar System has been given false signals ever since we began studying it. The main problem is that Saturn did not get cooler with age, as the theory usually dictates, but, unexpectedly, it got hotter. Much hotter.
Astrophysicists have long speculated that Saturn’s age was two billion years higher than the temperature of the planet indicated. Yet, they couldn’t give any proof as to why the planet that didn’t get cool, but heated up, still had an age that was in line with all the other planets of the solar system.
And then the Z Machine happened.
Sandia National Laboratory’s Z Machine’s new findings are starting to help elucidate the mystery of Saturn’s age. The scientists discovered that molecular hydrogen, as present on Saturn, metalizes when under the right amount of pressure. It then turns into a current carrying substance.
This discovery is big news for the astrophysicists studying Saturn’s teenage rebellion since it will probably find a solution for the x in the whole Saturn-age-temperature equation. The only one, as of yet.
Mike Desjarlais of Sandia said in a statement that when metallized and mixed with helium, hydrogen transforms into a dense liquid, that can release helium rain. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?
Helium rain effectively takes the form of light, and heats up a planet’s atmosphere due to the atomic nature of the hydrogen inside it.
The Sandia machine is used for compressing liquids at the atomic level. When used with hydrogen, the team of researchers found that it normally turns into a molecular reaction. But, when three megabars of pressure are applied, the machine compresses the hydrogen to over twelve times its starting level. The result is an atomic reaction, which, like all atomic reactions, generates heat and light (if the material is metallic).
Running the light generated through a spectrometer to disperse it, the scientists then concluded that the reaction on Saturn, through hydrogen and helium, results into a light rain due to the atmospheric pressure of the planet. This heats up the planet, so that it appears younger than it actually is.
A form of space beauty treatment?
Nevertheless, Saturn remains a mystery to study. Desjarlais concludes that this result was a nice merging of experiment with theory, and that now the scientific discussion will continue over the next few years.
Image source: www.mirrordaily.com