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Beyond Earthly Skies

Jupiter Devoured a Super-Earth

30 May 2013, 03:15 UTC
Jupiter Devoured a Super-Earth Jamie Murchison
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Jupiter and Saturn are gas giant planets with 318 and 95 Earth masses respectively. A gas giant forms when a solid core of rock and ice material with ~10 Earth masses starts accreting hydrogen and helium gas from the protoplanetary disk of material surrounding a young star. The end result is a massive hydrogen-helium (H-He) envelop surrounding a small rocky core. Observations of Jupiter and Saturn have revealed two puzzling properties. Firstly, Saturn seems to have a more massive core than Jupiter even though Saturn is only one-third Jupiter’s mass. Jupiter’s core is less than 10 Earth masses while Saturn core is between 15 to 30 Earth masses. Secondly, there is an enhancement of heavy elements in the H-He envelops of Jupiter and Saturn.In a previous article, I mentioned how the low mass of Jupiter’s core can be explained by the planet’s higher internal temperature which makes rock material within the planet’s core more dissolvable. This article will cover another mechanism involving the collisions of planetary-mass objects with gas giants, and how such events can also account for the heftier core of Saturn and the enhancement of heavy elements in both Jupiter and Saturn. An impacting planetary object can range ...

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