An explosive space collision has left Jupiter with new research on its strange planetary nucleus.
The gas giant hit a smaller planet about 4.5 billion years ago, leaving it there with a center where hot gas bubbles up.
Scientists say that their work solves a long-standing mystery about Jupiter's center.
Most planets have cores of molten rock or soggy ice.
But Jupiter, by far the largest world in the solar system, has a bizarre mixture of solid rocks and hydrogen gas.
Now, a team of astronomers from Japan, China, Switzerland and the US is proposing an apocalyptic space crash.
They investigated the structure of the gas giant by searching the data from the NASA Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter since 2016.
After inserting these data into computer models, a giant planetary collision seems to be the best explanation for Jupiter's fragmented, gaseous core.
"Models of such a scenario lead to an internal structure that is compatible with a diluted core and lasts billions of years," writes the team in a study published in Nature.
The solar system was a chaotic place 4.5 billion years ago.
It's likely that huge, rogue planets were swinging around the sun next to the eight worlds we know today.
How far is Jupiter from Earth?
Learn how long it takes to find the largest planet in the solar system …
- Jupiter and Earth are at the closest point of their respective orbit at a distance of approximately 365 million miles.
- But because neither the planet rotates around the sun in a perfect circle nor at the same speed, that number fluctuates dramatically.
- When they are furthest apart, the planets are 601 million miles apart, more than two-thirds farther from their nearest.
- Since it is further away, Jupiter needs 11.86 Earth years to create an orbit of the Sun.
- As we travel around our star, we catch up with the gas giant every 399 days, so the gas giant seems to be wandering backwards in the night sky.
Researchers believe that Jupiter's nucleus has formed after colliding with a planet about ten times the size of the Earth.
In such an event, Jupiter's core would probably merge with the smaller planet within ten hours.
Research suggests that the solar system in its beginning was a violent place where giant planets regularly plowed into each other.
The scientists wrote: "We suggest that collisions were common in the young solar system.
"A similar event could have occurred for Saturn and contributed to the structural differences between Jupiter and Saturn."
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Do you think Jupiter was hit by another planet? Let us know in the comments!
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