A New Perspective on the Interiors of Ice-rich Planets: Ice-Rock Mixture Instead of Ice on Top of Rock

Allona Vazan*, Re'em Sari, Ronit Kessel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Ice-rich planets are formed exterior to the water ice line and thus are expected to contain a substantial amount of ice. The high ice content leads to unique conditions in the interior, under which the structure of a planet is affected by ice interaction with other metals. We apply experimental data of ice-rock interaction at high pressure, and calculate detailed thermal evolution for possible interior configurations of ice-rich planets, in the mass range of super-Earth to Neptunes (5-15 M). We model the effect of migration inward on the ice-rich interior by including the influences of stellar flux and envelope mass loss. We find that ice and rock are expected to remain mixed, due to miscibility at high pressure, in substantial parts of the planetary interior for billions of years. We also find that the deep interior of planetary twins that have migrated to different distances from the star are usually similar, if no mass loss occurs. Significant mass loss results in separation of the water from the rock on the surface and emergence of a volatile atmosphere of less than 1% of the planet's mass. The mass of the atmosphere of water/steam is limited by the ice-rock interaction. We conclude that when ice is abundant in planetary interiors the planet structure may differ significantly from the standard layered structure of a water shell on top of a rocky core. Similar structure is expected in both close-in and further-out planets.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number150
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.


Dive into the research topics of 'A New Perspective on the Interiors of Ice-rich Planets: Ice-Rock Mixture Instead of Ice on Top of Rock'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this