Scientists have helped solve the mystery of what lies beneath the surface of Neptune — the most distant planet in our solar system.
A new study sheds light on the chemical make-up of the planet, which lies around 4.5 billion kilometres from the sun.
Extremely low temperatures on planets like Neptune — called ice giants — mean that chemicals on these distant worlds exist in a frozen state, researchers say.
The team found that frozen mixtures of water and ammonia inside Neptune — and other ice giants, including Uranus — are likely to form a little-studied compound called ammonia hemihydrate.
The findings will influence how ice giants are studied in future and could help astronomers classify newly discovered planets as they look deeper into space.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was supported by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The work was carried out in collaboration with scientists at Jilin University, China.
Dr Andreas Hermann, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions, said: “This study helps us better predict what is inside icy planets like Neptune. Our findings suggest that ammonia hemihydrate could be an important component of the mantle in ice giants, and will help improve our understanding of these frozen worlds. Materials provided by University of Edinburgh.