Jumpin 'Jupiter battered, it's a gas, gas, gas


Artistic representation of a protoplaneten, which penetrates into the Jupiter. Photo credits: K. Suda & Y. Akimoto / Mabuchi Design Office, courtesy of the Astrobiology Center, Japan

Jupiter may have started his life as a dense, rocky planet that has become more gas-like, according to new research, after a massive, newborn planet crashed 4.5 billion years ago.

The paper, published Wednesday in Nature, describes the scenario. A giant planetary embryo, ten times as massive as the Earth, plunged head first into Proto-Jupiter as the planets of the Solar System formed in the swamp of the debris surrounding the Sun.

Andrea Isella, co-author of the work and assistant professor of astronomy at Rice University in the US, described the impact hypothesis. "Because it [the impacting body] The impactor is tight and enters with a lot of energy. He is like a bullet that goes through the atmosphere and hits the core head-on. "

The collision fractures would have broken Jupiter's core and the material inside would dissipate, making the core of the planet less defined and blurry as it is now. "In front [the] Impact you have a very dense core, surrounded by atmosphere. The direct impact distributes things and waters down the core, "said Isella.

The researchers have good reason why Jupiter was once solid. It consists mainly of hydrogen and helium, but heavier elements appear to be distributed over a large area extending to nearly half the Jupiter radius. These types of elements are usually assembled in the early stages of the formation of a rocky planet. Where did they come from?


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"Jupiter's dilute core, combined with its possible high accumulation of heavy elements, challenges the standard theory of planetary formation," the paper says. It can be explained, however, that a giant protoplanetary has smashed into a solid Jupiter's core and spread apart the heavier elements.

"The only scenario that led to a profile of nuclear density similar to today's Juno-like one is a direct impact on a planetary embryo about ten times more massive than Earth," said Shang-Fei Liu, first author of the paper and a researcher at Sun Yat-sen University, China.

Further calculations showed that the likelihood that Jupiter would devour a protoplanete in the first few million years of his life was 40 percent. Ten times the Earth's mass would probably have collapsed in Jupiter's atmosphere, but would have left its mark. ®

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