Jupiter's Strange Core May Have Been Forged by a Colossal Head-On Crash

Space.com | 6/27/2019 | Chelsea Gohd
rach-rach (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/iEv6pmS4gfbefs5JbwHWiJ-1200-80.png

About 4.5 billion years ago, a young Jupiter collided head-on with a planetary embryo 10 times more massive than Earth. This giant impact formed Jupiter's dilute core, which contains hydrogen and helium, one new study suggests.

Before NASA's Juno mission launched to orbit and study Jupiter, scientists thought that the planet's core was dense and compact. "Astronomers assumed that Jupiter has a small compact core with a mass ranging from 5 to 20 Earth masses," lead study author Shangfei Liu of Sun Yat-sen University in Zhuhai, China, said in an email to Space.com.

Jupiter - Rocky - Icy - Embryo - Studies

This was assumed because Jupiter started off as a rocky and icy planetary embryo. However, studies using data from Juno found that the planet has an extended, dilute core — a core that is not only made up of rocky material and ice, but also hydrogen and helium. This "also means there is no sharp transition between the core and the envelope as we previously envisioned from planet formation theory," Liu said. This dilute core is something that scientists determined could not form naturally.

According to one new study, Jupiter's dilute core was formed by a collision with a massive, planetary embryo. This impact can be seen in this visualization.

Impact - Idea - Jupiter - Planetary - Embryo

"That's why we came up with the impact idea: Jupiter was smacked head-on by another massive planetary embryo (about 10 Earth masses) shortly after its formation," Liu said. "Such a catastrophic collision destroyed Jupiter's primordial compact core, and a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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