Young Jupiter Collided With A Chaotic Newborn Planet

Jupiter collided with a protoplanet early in its life say scientists

Jupiter's core is a freaky mix of solid rocks mixed with a diffuse bubble of hydrogen gas. One of the theories suggests that the moon was formed when Earth collided with another, likely Mars-sized object, and now new data from the Juno mission hints at a young Jupiter colliding with a massive newborn planet. In fact, the Juno data suggests that the planet has a diluted core containing heavy elements-those other than hydrogen or helium-which extends to almost half of Jupiter's radius.

Though there's no time machine that can transport researchers back to the era of Jupiter's genesis, the new model-the brainchild of a team of researchers led by Shang-Fei Liu of Sun Yat-sen University-offers a possible explanation for this puzzling observation. What we'd typically expect - and this is true for both rocky planets and gas giants - is layers of increasing density, with the densest material packed at the center of the planet, where temperatures are hottest.

Popular planet formation theories suggest Jupiter began as a dense, rock or ice planet that later developed its thick atmosphere from the primordial disk of gas and dust that birthed our Sun.

The impactor would be like a bullet that goes through the atmosphere and hits the core head-on.

Scientists studying Jupiter have been trying to figure out why the planet has such odd gravitational readings.

The study results were published this week in the journal Nature.

"This is puzzling", Andrea Isella, a co-author of the study from Rice University, said in a statement.


Collision: Jupiter was in a big head-on collision with a "protoplanet" 4.5 billion years ago when it was still forming - and the gas giant completely absorbed the other world.

It's been reported by BGR that a massive impact, while the planet was still forming, could be the best explanation.

"It sounded very unlikely to me", Isella says, "like a one-in-a-trillion probability. But Shang-FEI convinced me carrying out calculations, which indicated that it's not so incredible", she said.

The research team ran thousands of computer simulations and found that a fast-growing Jupiter can have unsettled the orbits of nearby embryonic planets. Additional 3D computer models that showed how such a collision would affect Jupiter's core made a collision scenario more compelling. Besides the two gaseous elements, it also has a core comprised of heavier elements such as a variety of rocks that are very diffuse and fragmented in such a way that it does not form a solid surface. The core isn't as dense as researchers suspected, but determining why that is has proven to be a challenge.

An infrared color composite of Jupiter was created from images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft in 2007.

This was assumed because Jupiter started off as a rocky and icy planetary embryo.

Researchers have been studying Jupiter for more than a century, but NASA's Juno spacecraft enabled astronomers to understand the gas giant in unprecedented detail.

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