Internal structureEdit

Jupiter interior

This cut-away illustrates a model of the interior of Jupiter, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep layer of metallic hydrogen.

Jupiter is thought to consist of a dense core with a mixture of elements, a surrounding layer of liquid metallic hydrogen with some helium, and an outer layer predominantly of molecular hydrogen.[1] Beyond this basic outline, there is still considerable uncertainty. The core is often described as rocky, but its detailed composition is unknown, as are the properties of materials at the temperatures and pressures of those depths (see below). In 1997, the existence of the core was suggested by gravitational measurements.[1] indicating a mass of from 12 to 45 times the Earth's mass or roughly 3%-15% of the total mass of Jupiter.[2][3] The presence of a core during at least part of Jupiter's history is suggested by models of planetary formation involving initial formation of a rocky or icy core that is massive enough to collect its bulk of hydrogen and helium from the protosolar nebula. Assuming it did exist, it may have shrunk as convection currents of hot liquid metallic hydrogen mixed with the molten core and carried its contents to higher levels in the planetary interior. A core may now be entirely absent, as gravitational measurements aren't yet precise enough to rule that possibility out entirely.[1][4]

The uncertainty of the models is tied to the error margin in hitherto measured parameters: one of the rotational coefficients (J6) used to describe the planet's gravitational moment, Jupiter's equatorial radius, and its temperature at 1 bar pressure. The JUNO mission, scheduled for launch in 2011, is expected to narrow down the value of these parameters, and thereby make progress on the problem of the core.[5]

The core region is surrounded by dense metallic hydrogen, which extends outward to about 78 percent of the radius of the planet.[3] Rain-like droplets of helium and neon precipitate downward through this layer, depleting the abundance of these elements in the upper atmosphere.[6][7]

Above the layer of metallic hydrogen lies a transparent interior atmosphere of liquid hydrogen and gaseous hydrogen, with the gaseous portion extending downward from the cloud layer to a depth of about 1,000 km.[3] Instead of a clear boundary or surface between these different phases of hydrogen, there is probably a smooth gradation from gas to liquid as one descends.[8][9] This smooth transition happens whenever the temperature is above the critical temperature, which for hydrogen is only 33 K (see hydrogen).

The temperature and pressure inside Jupiter increase steadily toward the core. At the phase transition region where liquid hydrogen (heated beyond its critical point) becomes metallic, it is believed the temperature is 10,000 K and the pressure is 200 GPa. The temperature at the core boundary is estimated to be 36,000 K and the interior pressure is roughly 3,000–4,500 GPa.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named guillot04
  2. Guillot, T.; Gautier, D.; Hubbard, W. B. (1997). "New Constraints on the Composition of Jupiter from Galileo Measurements and Interior Models". Icarus 130: 534–539. doi:10.1006/icar.1997.5812, Retrieved on 28 August 2007. 
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named elkins-tanton
  4. Various (2006). McFadden, Lucy-Ann; Weissman, Paul; Johnson, Torrence. ed.. Encyclopedia of the Solar System (2nd edition ed.), Academic Press. pp. 412. ISBN 0120885891. 
  5. Horia, Yasunori; Sanoa, Takayoshi; Ikomaa, Masahiro; Idaa, Shigeru (2007). "On uncertainty of Jupiter's core mass due to observational errors". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union (Cambridge University Press) 3: 163–166. doi:10.1017/S1743921308016554. 
  6. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named galileo_ms
  7. Lodders, Katharina (2004). "Jupiter Formed with More Tar than Ice". The Astrophysical Journal 611 (1): 587–597. doi:10.1086/421970, Retrieved on 3 July 2007. 
  8. Guillot, T. (1999). "A comparison of the interiors of Jupiter and Saturn". Planetary and Space Science 47 (10–11): 1183–200. doi:10.1016/S0032-0633(99)00043-4, Retrieved on 28 August 2007. 
  9. Lang, Kenneth R. (2003). "Jupiter: a giant primitive planet". NASA. Retrieved on 2007-01-10.

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