Published: Sun, August 18, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Jupiter collided with a protoplanet early in its life say scientists

Jupiter collided with a protoplanet early in its life say scientists

A cosmic, head-on collision between Jupiter and a protoplanet 4.5 billion years ago, could finally explain surprising readings made by NASA's Juno spacecraft. Interior models based on Juno data indicated Jupiter has a large "diluted" core representing about 5 to 15 percent of the planet's mass comprised of rocky and icy material unexpectedly mixed with light elements like hydrogen and helium. The collision theory would explain the oddities in Jupiter's gravitational measurements.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Details a variety of simulations demonstrating the way the planetary embryo might have led to the uneven distribution of heavy metals we see during Jupiter's gaseous envelope today.

Several models of Jupiter's structure that fit data from NASA's Juno spacecraft suggest that the gas giant has a diluted core, with a total heavy-element mass ranging from ten to a few tens of Earth masses (5-15% of the Jovian mass), and that heavy elements - elements other than hydrogen and helium - are distributed within a region extending to almost half of Jupiter's radius.

The team put together a video to indicate what the violent impact may have looked like.

The impact is believed to have happened 4.5 billion years ago during the early days of our Solar System. Isella says that the theory sounded unlikely to him, but that Shang-Fei convinced him using calculations that a collision was not improbable.

Shear refers to force and stress. A giant planetary embryo ten times as massive as the Earth, crashed head first into proto-Jupiter as the Solar System's planets were forming in the morass of debris encircling the Sun.

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"This is still a new field, so the results are far from solid, but as some people have been looking for planets around distant stars, they sometimes see infrared emissions that disappear after a few years", Isella said. "And then after some time, the dust dissipates and that emission goes away".

Before NASA's Juno mission launched to orbit and study Jupiter, scientists thought that the planet's core was dense and compact.

Data from Juno have allowed scientists to create a precise picture of the gravitational fields of the giant planets.

Additional coauthors are from the Astrobiology Center of Japan; the University of Zurich; Tsinghua University in Beijing; and the University of California, Santa Cruz. According to scientists, this may explain some unusual measurements collected by the device Juno, which is now in orbit around Jupiter, reports the with reference to UNIAN.

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