Jupiter’s Growth Delayed For Millions Of Years, Study Says

Posted: Aug 30 2018, 10:56am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 30 2018, 11:00am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Jupiter’s Growth Delayed for Millions of Years, Study Says
Credit: NASA/JPL

New study explains how Jupiter's rapid growth is halted by collisions.

Jupiter is the largest and most massive planet in our solar system, containing more than two times the mass of all other planets combined. The planet is made up mostly of gas and has most moons of any planet in our solar system. Analysis of meteorites has indicated that Jupiter had a messed up early life because its growth spurt was delayed for at least 2 million years. Researchers used theoretical models to explain why the gaseous planet’s growth was halted. They suggest that Jupiter collided with many kilometer-sized rocks in the early stage of its formation. Those collisions generated high energy and made it difficult for gas molecules to accrete, forcing the planet to grow slowly. Without that delay, Jupiter possibly could have become even larger planet than today.

"We could show that Jupiter grew in different, distinct phases.” Julia Venturini from University of Zürich said.

Planets are born from dust and gas. Based on calculations, researchers show that Jupiter grew in three distinct phases. First, the planetary embryo rapidly accumulated centimeter-sized pebbles during its first million years until the solid core is formed. Jupiter grew to 20 Earth masses during this formation phase.

The following 2 million years of Jupiter were marked by the slower growth due to the slow accretion of larger, kilometer-sized rocks called planetesimals. These rocks hit the growing planet with great energy and released a tremendous amount of heat. Jupiter slowly reached 50 Earth masses in the subsequent two million years before reaching its present-day mass.

“During the first stage, the pebbles brought the mass,” explains first author Yann Alibert. “In the second phase, the planetesimals also added a bit of mass, but more importantly, they brought energy."

The third and final phase was dominated by runaway gas accretion in which Jupiter had grown to a body of 300 Earth masses. The goal of the study was to investigate the conditions that slowed Jupiter’s growth after reaching 20 Earth masses for at least 2 million years.

Astrophysicists say. "Pebbles are important in the first stages to build a core quickly, but the heat provided by planetesimals is crucial to delay gas accretion so that it matches the timescale given by the meteorite data."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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