Jupiter has long been hailed as the mighty "king of planets" because it is huge compared to most other planets in our solar system. It's huge and mostly gas, which makes it difficult for scientists to know what lies deep under the thick cloud cover.
NASA's Juno probe has been exploring the planet in detail for over eight years and has left some surprises on the planet's core. Now, a new study by an international research team could provide an explanation.
NASA's Juno spacecraft scans have shown that Jupiter's core is not exactly what scientists once thought. The core is not as dense as expected, but figuring out why this is a challenge.
"That's puzzling," said Andrea Isella, co-author of a new study, in Nature [1
"Being dense and containing a lot of energy, the impact would strike the atmosphere like a bullet and hit the core head-on," explains Isella. "Before the impact, you have a very dense core, surrounded by atmosphere. The direct impact distributes things and dilutes the core.
The planet that could have hit Jupiter would have been huge after the simulations. The researchers estimate that it would have been about ten times heavier than Earth, and it would have so dramatically confused things that billions of years would have passed to calm down, and explain why the core of Jupiter is not nearly so dense and dense is compact as scientists think.