LIVERMORE (CBS SF) – Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are using lasers to create the pressure and temperatures needed for planet formation as a way to calculate how bodies in our solar system have evolved.

The experiments are reported in the January 23rd edition of Science and reveal melting measurements of silica – a key component of rock –  and other core metals at the center of planets.

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“Deep inside planets, extreme density, pressure and temperature strongly modify the properties of the constituent materials,” LLNL physicist Marius Millot said in a press release on the research. “How much heat solids can sustain before melting under pressure is key to determining a planet’s internal structure and evolution, and now we can measure it directly in the laboratory.”

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Data indicates that large, rocky planets likely have “oceans of magma – molten rock” floating under the surface.

“Our research suggests that silica is likely solid inside Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter cores, which sets new constraints on future improved models for the structure and evolution of these planets,” Millot said.

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Detailed information on the science behind the experiments can be found on the LLNL website.