February 06, 2013

Jupiter’s Dissolving Core Sheds Light on Alien Planets

In March of 2012, scientists unlocked evidence that Jupiter’s core has been dissolving, and the implications reach far outside of our solar system. This new data may help to explain a puzzling discovery of a strange exo-planet. The planet, CoRoT-20b, was announced in February, and its discoverers searched for a suitable explanation for its unusual density. Using conventional models, the astronomers calculated that the core would have to make up over half of the planet. For comparison, Jupiter’s core only represents about between 3-15 percent of the planet’s total mass.

“It’s a really important piece of the puzzle of trying to figure out what’s going on inside giant planets,” said Jonathan Fortney, a planetary scientist at the University of California Santa Cruz who was not affiliated with the research.

Conventional planetary formation theory has modeled Jupiter as a set of neat layers with a gassy outer envelope surrounding a rocky core consisting of heavier elements. But increasing evidence has indicated that the insides of gas giants like Jupiter are a messy mixture of elements without strictly defined borders.

This new research on a melting Jovian core bolsters a mixing model of gas giant planets and would provide another avenue for heavier elements to flow throughout the planet.

Read more: Jupiter's Dissolving Core Sheds Light on Alien Planets — Daily Galaxy.

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