(ORDO NEWS) — Planetologists have declared Jupiter the most ancient planet in the solar system.
Jupiter’s rocky core formed less than a million years after the formation of the solar system, scientists report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. After another 2-3 million years, this core grew to 50 times the mass of the Earth.
In this study, “for the first time, we can tell something about Jupiter based on measurements made in the laboratory,” said study co-author Thomas Kruyer, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
To investigate the formation of the planet, experts took samples of extraterrestrial material that falls on Earth as numerous meteorites.
The solar system began as a disk of dust and gas 4.6 billion years ago. Of the planets, the gas giants were the first to appear, followed by such stone-metal terrestrial worlds as the Earth. Jupiter was the largest of all the planets.
Despite being mostly gas, the planet is over 300 times the mass of Earth. For this reason, astronomers suspect that the planet was the oldest capable of absorbing more material from the disk before its younger siblings arrived.
A new study confirms scientists’ idea that Jupiter formed first in the solar system. When Jupiter formed, the growing planet, revolving around the Sun, formed a huge trail of gas and dust behind it.
Jupiter Controls the Development of the Solar System
Moreover, Jupiter acted as a barrier protecting the inner solar system from meteorites. When the solar system was about 1 million years old, Jupiter’s gravity was strong enough to keep rocks within its orbit.
“After about 1 million years, Jupiter became large enough to cut off the inner solar system from the outer one,” said Brandon Johnson of Brown University, a planetary scientist not involved in the new research.
When the solar system was about 4 million years old, Jupiter grew to about 50 Earth masses and began to approach the Sun. This allowed the outer asteroids to mix with the inner ones. Today they are mixed in one belt that exists between Jupiter and Mars. These rocks often fall to Earth where scientists can study them.
According to the hypothesis, Jupiter began to approach the center of the solar system. So it was until Saturn was formed, pulling Jupiter back. This pendulum motion of a huge ball may be responsible for the association of groups of meteorites into one belt.
And it is likely that this young and massive Jupiter is responsible for a small Earth with a thin atmosphere. The resulting Earth lacked gravity to form a thick hydrogen-helium atmosphere. Thanks to Jupiter for absorbing most of this material.
Kruyer suggested that young Jupiter is the reason why our solar system does not have super-Earths near our star. In this sense, Jupiter is the pillar of the solar system.
“Even as an infant, Jupiter really controlled the dynamics and evolution of the solar system,” Johnson said.
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