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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

Liquid Metallic Hydrogen

Liquid metallic hydrogen, which the planets Jupiter and Saturn are made of, is not an earthly substance. Even so, we might be able to get an idea of what it is from another substance, Mercury.

As shown in this picture, the element Mercury, at room temperature and at surface pressure, is a metallic liquid.

At temperatures and pressures within the giant planets, 10,000 degrees and thousands of times the pressure at sea level, the element hydrogen, which is normally a gas, becomes a metallic liquid. (It changes phase from a gas to a liquid).

Since the environment within a giant planet, of thousands of degrees in temperature, and extreme pressures, cannot be duplicated at earth at all, we may never be able to see liquid metallic hydrogen. But it may look very much like Mercury does in this picture.


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The Liquid Hydrogen Layer

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA