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Jupiter's Core is DissolvingIt's true; the core it's melting...
To Be or Not to Be?
That is the question for Jupiter's heart. Does Jupiter's dissolved rock get mixed into the atmosphere over time? Keep reading to find out!
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Is Jupiter's core really dissolving? Does its dissolved rock get mixed into the atmosphere?
This is evidence that even the mighty can lose heart. Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system (by mass, volume and surface area, among other statistics), is damned to lose its rocky core.
It is thought that Jupiter once had a solid body of rock and ice. When it grew to about 10 times the mass of Earth, its gravity pulled in gas from its birth nebula, giving it a thick atmosphere made mainly of Hydrogen. Well, that's one theory about Jupiter's birth...
The other one is that a planet (bigger than Earth) slammed into Jupiter a long, long, time ago, vaporizing most of the giant planet's core. Scientists even suggest that Jupiter's core may weigh less than 10 Earths.
The second scenario could also shed some light into another mystery: why Jupiter's atmosphere contains much more heavy elements than the Sun (whose composition should mirror that of the nebula that gave birth to our solar system, right?).
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Planets colliding inside our solar system, from Discovery Education.
Two researchers of the University of California, Berkeley, came with an even crazier theory: based on their "quantum calculations" Jupiter's core has gradually been dissolving since its formation (more than 4 billion years ago). They are not the first scientists to suggest that the high temperatures and pressures in Jupiter's heart might cause its core to dissolve into the atmosphere (that behaves somewhat like a liquid), but they are definitely the first ones to try and figure out how this could happen.
The scientists at of the University of California found out that the mineral Magnesium Oxide (the main constituent of Jupiter's core), would dissolve into its fluid surroundings when exposed at Jupiter-like pressures (about 40 million Earth atmospheres) and extreme temperatures of about 20,000 °C.
Of course, such conditions cannot be accurately recreated in labs on Earth, but at least these experiments can approximately explain how the dissolved rock gets mixed into the atmosphere of Jupiter over time, with a certain marge for error of course.
Should the fact that Jupiter's heart is dissolving sadden or worry us? Quite the opposite; it's a sign that Jupiter is still forming - it hasn't yet settled down into a stable state.
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