Giant's heart: How they looked into the core of Jupiter

How our ideas about the structure of Jupiter have changed thanks to the work of Militzer and his colleagues. Above is a new model of the planet’s structure, with a solid core surrounded by an ice crust. Below is the previous hypothesis, within the framework of which it was believed that ice from water, ammonia and methane is distributed in the atmosphere, and the core as a whole is smaller

Jupiter and Earth: the mounted photo shows how huge this gas giant is

The planet consists mainly of hydrogen and helium. It is believed that in its center there is a solid stone core of heavier elements compressed by colossal pressure; the size of the core in comparison with Jupiter is negligible, but it is also larger than our entire Earth

Jupiter is almost entirely composed of light elements - hydrogen and helium. Imagine a magnificent picture of its structure: under thick and turbulent clouds, a layer of hydrogen with helium additives stretches up to 25 thousand km thick, gradually, under the influence of increasing pressure and temperature, passing from the gas to the liquid phase. There is no clear boundary between the phases; it all looks more like a colossal boiling hydrogen boiler.

Below it, 30–50 thousand km, is liquid hydrogen, which under these conditions has metallic properties: electrons are separated from protons by pressure in millions of atmospheres, and such a liquid conducts electricity perfectly. Powerful electric fields are born here that form the magnetic field of the entire planet.

The solid stone core is located even deeper, where over the billions of years of the planet’s existence all heavy elements migrated and under pressure from 30 to 100 million atmospheres formed a very dense “pea” with a diameter of up to 30 thousand km and heated to 20 thousand degrees.

However, a recent computer simulation showed that the size of the core of Jupiter, scientists are still wrong, and seriously. Modern technologies have made it possible to model in detail the behavior of the hydrogen-helium mixture at extremely high pressures and temperatures - so high that it is not possible to conduct such experiments in the laboratory.

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A group of scientists led by Burkhard Militzer modeled the properties of a hydrogen-helium mixture, starting with the temperature, density and pressure existing on the surface of Jupiter, and gradually moving deeper into the core of the planet, where, of course, no one can look at artificial machine.

It turned out that the core of Jupiter is a rocky body like the Earth, only 14-18 times heavier than our planet - and constitutes about 5% of the total mass of Jupiter (the remaining 95% is in the hydrogen-helium atmosphere). It was previously believed that the core of Jupiter could not be heavier than 7 Earth masses, and some believed that the gas giant did not have a core at all.

Computer simulation data showed that the core consists of successive layers of metals, rocky rocks, as well as ice from methane, water, and ammonia. According to the calculations of the Militzer group, the ice crust of the core has a mass of about 4 terrestrial, that is, about 1% of the total mass of Jupiter. At its core is a “twist” of iron and nickel (as in the core of our own planet).

“Our study says, ” Militzer explained, “that in the center of Jupiter there is a large rocky object surrounded by layers of ice - the only ice on the entire planet ... (previously it was believed that ice of different compositions was more or less evenly distributed across the planet’s atmosphere - PM) Its core can be compared with Neptune or Uranus - planets called “ice giants”, because they are rocky bodies surrounded by a thick layer of ice from hydrogen and helium - to “get” Jupiter, just add a thick liquid gas layer. "

A similar planet structure, by the way, has a number of interesting consequences. Firstly, we can say that Jupiter, which appeared about 4.5 billion years ago, was first formed due to the collision of small rocky bodies, which eventually formed its core, which, in turn, gradually captured the colossal atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.

In addition, the various “layers” of Jupiter rotate at different speeds. The planet can be imagined as concentric cylinders composed of each other, rotating around a common axis: closer to the equator, they rotate faster. By the way, a similar non-uniform rotation is also observed in the Sun.

By the way, for many years it was believed that Jupiter is a kind of guardian angel of our planet, capturing the lion's share of dangerous comets and asteroids from outer space with its powerful gravity. However, it turned out that this is not so and, moreover, it may turn out that it is Jupiter that directs them closer to the Earth. Read the nearly detective story The Evil Giant.

According to UC Berkeley Press Release

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