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Helium Rain and The State of Water Ice in Giant Planets Predicted with Ab Initio Simulations

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • Duane Physics Room G1B20

Speaker Name(s): 

Burkhard Militzer

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

University of California, Berkeley
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Physics Department Colloquium

Event Details & Abstract: 

The Kepler satellite has detected over 3400 extrasolar planet candidates. Many of them are gas and ice giants, and some are even larger than Jupiter. This talk introduces ab initio simulations and discusses the state of matter at high temperature and pressure conditions that prevail in the interiors of giant planets. We describe how data from the Galileo mission to Jupiter has been combined with simulation results to demonstrate that helium rain occurs on this planet. We characterize water ice at megabar pressures and describe the phase transitions that we recently predicted. After formation of a giant planet, its core is exposed to metallic hydrogen at extreme pressure-temperature conditions and different core materials may dissolve. We were able to show that the cores of Jupiter and Saturn have been eroded. We conclude by discussing future directions in the field of ab initio computer simulations with applications in Earth and exoplanet science.