A new experiment confirms the existence of "superionic ice," a bizarre form of water that might comprise the bulk of giant icy planets throughout the universe. Recently at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York, one of the world's most powerful lasers blasted a droplet of water, creating a shock wave that raised the water's pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. X-rays that beamed through the droplet in the same fraction of a second offered humanity's first glimpse of water under those extreme conditions. The X-rays revealed that the water inside the shock wave didn't become a superheated liquid or gas. Paradoxically - but just as physicists squinting at screens in an adjacent room had expected - the atoms froze solid, forming crystalline ice. "You hear the shot," said Marius Millot of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and "right away you see that something interesting was happening." Millot co-led the...
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