Jupiter's core is a huge, bizarre mixture of solid rock mixed with diffuse bubble of hydrogen gas. How it could have formed thousands of years ago is a great mystery.
But now scientists are suggesting that the gas giant may have absorbed another protoplanet during a huge collision when our solar system was forming, according to Science.
A cataclysmic head-on collision
One possible explanation is that a cataclysmic frontal collision occurred about 4.5 billion years ago between the young planet Jupiter and one of the numerous large protoplanets that likely populated the early solar system, planetary scientists report in Nature. This collision would have caused Jupiter to absorb the protoplanet, which may have had up to 10 times the mass of Earth, causingits two dense cores combined and diffused after only ten hours.
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A team of astronomers from Japan, China, Switzerland and the US used data from NASA's Juno space probe to investigate the structure and composition of Jupiter.
While the theory of a cataclysmic frontal collision is the most plausible, the researchers also tested other possible explanations for how Jupiter's inner core became so fuzzy, such as gradual erosion caused by high-speed winds or the possibility that the core contained gas from the beginning. But the ancient impact, according to the scientists, is not just one explanationplausible, but it may be the one that best matches the observational data.
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If they are right, this means that our solar system was an extremely violent environment, where colossal protoplanets could collide with each other and even merge.
The scientific paper was published in Nature.
SOURCE / Science