Download e-book for iPad: Exploring Saturn by Kerri O'Donnell

By Kerri O'Donnell

ISBN-10: 0823982157

ISBN-13: 9780823982158

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Example text

Scientists then recognized that temperature also affects oxygen isotopic ratios: At different temperatures, different ratios of oxygen isotopes condense. As material in the early solar system cooled, it is thought that first aluminum oxide condensed, at a temperature of about 2,440ºF (1,340ºC), and then calcium-titanium oxide (CaTiO3), at a temperature of about 2,300ºF (1,260ºC), and then a calcium-aluminumsilicon-oxide (Ca2Al2SiO7), at a temperature of about 2,200ºF (1,210ºC), and so on through other compounds down to iron-nickel alloy at 1,800ºF (990ºC) and water, at –165ºF (–110ºC) (this low temperature for the condensation of water is caused by the very low pressure of space).

Together, these two cool, connected layers are called the lithosphere. Beneath the lithosphere, the remaining mantle might be hot enough to flow. This is certainly true on the Earth and is probably the case on the other terrestrial planets. The mantles of terrestrial planets are thought to be mainly made of minerals based on silicon atoms. The most common minerals at shallow depths in the mantle are olivine (also known as the semiprecious gem peridot) and pyroxene at shallow depths, which then convert to other minerals at the higher pressures of the deep interior.

Surface features on one-plate planets are therefore different from those on Earth. Below the crust and above the core, the planet’s material is called the mantle. The uppermost mantle is too cool to be able to flow, except over many millions of years, and so it moves as a unit with the crust. Together, these two cool, connected layers are called the lithosphere. Beneath the lithosphere, the remaining mantle might be hot enough to flow. This is certainly true on the Earth and is probably the case on the other terrestrial planets.

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Exploring Saturn by Kerri O'Donnell


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