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Beyond Earthly Skies

Dissolving Heart of Jupiter

29 May 2013, 04:00 UTC
Dissolving Heart of Jupiter
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At the planet’s very heart lies a solid rocky core, at least five times larger than Earth, seething with the appalling heat generated by the inexorable contraction of the stupendous mass of material pressing down to its centre. For more than four billion years Jupiter’s immense gravitational power has been squeezing the planet slowly, relentlessly, steadily, converting gravitational energy into heat, raising the temperature of that rocky core to thirty thousand degrees, spawning the heat flow that warms the planet from within. That hot, rocky core is the original protoplanet seed from the solar system’s primeval time, the nucleus around which those awesome layers of hydrogen and helium and ammonia, methane, sulphur compounds-and water-have wrapped themselves.- Ben Bova, Jupiter (2000) Figure 1: Artist’s depiction of Jupiter and the 4 Galilean moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.Gas giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn are believed to have formed from the rapid accretion of hydrogen and helium gas around an initial solid core of rock and ice material. Such a protoplanetary core is expected to containing approximately 10 times the mass of Earth. So much hydrogen and helium is eventually accreted that the core of rock and ice material only ...

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