New Study Suggests That a Young Jupiter Gobbled Up Plenty of Planetesimals

Jupiter is nearly completely made up of hydrogen and helium. In the original solar nebula, the amounts of each roughly match the predicted values.

However, it also includes heavier elements known as metals by astronomers. Metals are a minor component of Jupiter, but their existence and distribution reveal a lot to scientists.

Jupiter's metal concentration and distribution, according to a recent research, indicate that the planet ate a lot of rocky planetesimals in its childhood.

Since the Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter in July 2016 and began collecting data, it has revolutionized our knowledge of Jupiter's creation and development.

The Gravity Science instrument is one of the mission's highlights. It broadcasts and receives radio messages between Juno and Earth's Deep Space Network.

The procedure determines Jupiter's gravitational field and provides researchers with more information about the planet's composition.

Jupiter began its formation by accreting rocky material. After a period of fast gas accretion from the solar nebula, Jupiter became into the monster it is today after many millions of years.

However, there is a substantial dispute about the early stages of rocky accretion. Is it possible that it accumulated greater masses of rocks, such as planetesimals? Or did it accumulate stuff the size of pebbles? Jupiter evolved on multiple time frames depending on the response.

The goal of a new study was to find an answer to that issue. "Jupiter's inhomogeneous envelope inhomogeneous envelope" is the title of the paper, which was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. Yamila Miguel, an associate professor of astrophysics at the Leiden Observatory and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research, is the principal author of the study.

Thanks to the Juno spacecraft's JunoCam, we've become accustomed to stunning photos of Jupiter. But what we see is simply the surface. All those enthralling sights of clouds and storms are only the planet's thin 50-kilometer (31-mile) outermost layer of atmosphere.

The secret to Jupiter's genesis and development lies buried deep below the planet's tens of thousands of kilometers thick atmosphere.

Jupiter is usually acknowledged as the Solar System's oldest planet. Scientists, on the other hand, want to know how long it took to create. The authors of the research sought to use Juno's Gravity Science experiment to investigate the metals in the planet's atmosphere.

The existence and distribution of pebbles in Jupiter's atmosphere are crucial to understanding how the planet formed, and the Gravity Science experiment assessed pebble dispersion across the atmosphere.

There was no exact data on Jupiter's gravity harmonics prior to Juno and its Gravity Science mission.

Jupiter's atmosphere isn't as homogeneous as originally imagined, according to the experts. Near the planet's center, there are more metals than in the other layers. The metals add up to between 11 and 30 Earth masses in total.

The researchers used the data to create simulations of Jupiter's interior processes."In this paper, we assemble the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Jupiter interior models to date and use it to study the distribution of heavy elements in the planet's envelope," they write.

Two sets of models were generated by the team. The first group consists of 3-layer models, whereas the second group consists of dilute core models. 

"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," stated main author Miguel.

"We know that once a baby planet is big enough, it starts pushing out pebbles. The richness of metals inside Jupiter that we see now is impossible to achieve before that. So we can exclude the scenario with only pebbles as solids during Jupiter's formation. Planetesimals are too big to be blocked, so they must have played a role."

With increasing distance from the core, the amount of metals in Jupiter's interior drops. This indicates that there is no convection in the planet's deep atmosphere, which scientists had assumed existed.

"Earlier, we thought that Jupiter has convection, like boiling water, making it completely mixed," Miguel explained. "But our finding shows differently."

"We robustly demonstrate that the heavy element abundance is not homogeneous in Jupiter's envelope," the scientists state in their research. "Our results imply that Jupiter continued to accretet heavy elements in large amounts while its hydrogen-helium envelope was growing, contrary to predictions based on the pebble-isolation mass in its simplest incarnation, favoring instead planetesimal-based or more complex hybrid models." 

The authors also infer that once Jupiter originated, even when it was still young and heated, it did not mix through convection.

The findings of the researchers also apply to the study of gaseous exoplanets and attempts to identify their metallicity. "Our result … provides a base example for exoplanets: a non-homogeneous envelope implies that the metallicity observed is a lower limit to the planet bulk metallicity."

In the case of Jupiter, there was no way to tell its metallicity from afar. Scientists could only determine the metallicity indirectly after Juno landed. "Therefore, metallicities inferred from remote atmospheric observations in exoplanets might not represent the bulk metallicity of the planet."

One of the first goals for the James Webb Space Telescope will be to measure exoplanet atmospheres and determine their composition. The data Webb gives may not capture what's going on in the deepest layers of large gas planets, as this research demonstrates. 
New Study Suggests That a Young Jupiter Gobbled Up Plenty of Planetesimals New Study Suggests That a Young Jupiter Gobbled Up Plenty of Planetesimals Reviewed by Lilit on June 14, 2022 Rating: 5
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