Jupiter has been found to be non-homogeneous – Metallicity reveals new clues about the origin of the planet

A multitude of swirling clouds in Jupiter’s dynamic North Temperate Belt are captured in this image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Credit: Image enhanced by Gerald Eichstädt and Sean Doran (CC BY-NC-SA) based on images provided courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

New research finds that

Jupiter, a gas giant, is the fifth planet from the Sun, orbiting between Deep Jets in Jupiter's Atmosphere

This view of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere from NASA’s Juno spacecraft includes several of the planet’s southern jet streams. Using data from Juno’s instruments, scientists have found that Jupiter’s powerful atmospheric jets extend much deeper than previously thought. Evidence from Juno shows that jet streams and belts penetrate about 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) into the planet. Credit: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik © CC NC SA

The team studied the distribution of metals because it provides insights into how Jupiter was formed. The metals end up not being evenly distributed throughout the envelope, with more on the inside than on the outside. The total adds up to between 11 and 30 earth masses of metals. Miguel: “There are two mechanisms for a gas giant like Jupiter to acquire metals during its formation: through the accretion of small pebbles or larger planetesimals. We know that once a baby planet is big enough, it starts pushing pebbles. The wealth of metals within Jupiter that we see now is impossible to achieve before then. Thus, we can exclude the scenario with only pebbles as solids during the formation of Jupiter. Planetesimals are too big to block, so they must have played a role.”

The finding that the inner part of the envelope has heavier elements than the outer part means that the abundance decreases outwards with a gradient, rather than there being a homogeneous mixture throughout the envelope. “We used to think that Jupiter had convection, like boiling water, making it completely mixed,” says Miguel. “But our discovery shows it differently.”

Reference: “Jupiter’s non-homogeneous envelope” by Y. Miguel, M. Bazot, T. Guillot, S. Howard, E. Galanti, Y. Caspi, WB Hubbard, B. Militzer, R. Helled, SK Atreya, JEP Connerney, DS. During, L. Kulowski, JI Lunine, D. Stevenson and S. Bolton, January 27, 2022, . Astronomy and Astrophysics.
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202243207

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