(ORDO NEWS) — Jupiter became such a huge giant because it “ate” baby planets.
These results come from the first clear observation of the chemical composition under the cloudy outer atmosphere of a gas giant.
And although modern observations have revealed a lot about the clouds that are on the outer surface of Jupiter, very little is known about the internal structure of this massive planet.
A new study provides unprecedented insight into the solar system’s largest planet, which is so large it acts as a gravity shield for Earth against asteroids.
Jupiter swallowed young planets and as a result became a gas giant. There’s a lot more going on under Jupiter’s surface than you might think.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft recently allowed scientists to measure Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, showing it to be between 300 and 500 km deep.
Using data from the spacecraft, scientists were able to map the rocky material in Jupiter’s core, revealing a surprisingly large amount of heavy elements.
Analysis of the chemical composition of Jupiter’s rocky core indicates that it destroyed and ate the planetesimals, the baby planets.
As the planet formed, Jupiter’s gravity pulled more and more rocks until its rocky core became so massive that it began to pull in large amounts of gas from farther away. It was mostly hydrogen and helium left over from the formation of the sun.
The new results support the theory that Jupiter was formed by the absorption of planetesimals – large space rocks that could turn into planets like Earth or Mars.
The research team has developed computer models of Jupiter’s interior using a combination of data collected by the Juno and Galileo spacecraft.
They discovered heavy elements due to their stronger gravitational force than the surrounding gaseous atmosphere.
The gravity data allowed them to chart small changes in the planet’s gravity, helping them determine where the rocky material is and how it is distributed under Jupiter’s outer surface.
“Juno provided very precise gravitational data that helped us limit the distribution of material inside Jupiter,” lead researcher Yamila Miguel, an astrophysicist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
The results of the study showed that Jupiter’s core contains the equivalent of 11 to 30 Earth masses of heavy elements, which is about 3 to 9 percent of the gas giant’s mass. This is much more than expected. It also turned out that Jupiter devoured planetesimals to become a giant.
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