Tag Archives: jupiter

Incredible New Images Of Jupiter Reveal Details Behind Shrinking Great Red Spot

Jupiter: Are you ready for your close-up? A collection of images of the gargantuan planet, taken by Hubble, have been amalgamated into a planetary portrait, the first in a series of annual portraits of the gas giant members of the Solar System. Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot, its dramatic cloud cover, and even a new elusive wave-like structure comprised of gas have been documented in incredible detail by NASA.

Collecting annual images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune will help both current and future scientists observe how these enormous worlds change over time in fine detail, including any alterations to their weather patterns and atmospheric chemistry. Using Hubbles high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3, two global maps of Jupiter have been produced.

Video credit: NASA

Unfortunately, theres some bad news: The famousGreat Red Spot, that vast anti-cyclone with wind speeds of up to 644 kilometers per hour (400 miles per hour), is shrinking. This isnt breaking news for planetary scientists this storm, which can fit three entire planet Earths within its boundaries has been shrinking for perhaps the last four centuries. In the last 200 years, it has shrunk by over 50%. An unusual wispy structure has also been observed spanning almost the entire width of the Great Red Spot, rotating and distorting itself throughout the 10-hour-long image sequence span taken by Hubble.

Every time we look at Jupiter, we get tantalizing hints that something really exciting is going on, Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. This time is no exception.

This persistent hurricane which probably gets its orangey-red color from ammonium hydrosulfide chemically reacting with cosmic rays is still far older than any terrestrial superstorm, which normally last no longer than a week or so. Jupiters atmosphere is mostly comprised of hydrogen and helium, with a liquid ocean of hydrogen surrounding its relatively small rocky, icy core. As there is little solid ground to provide friction for the tumultuous atmosphere, storms and winds can continue unimpeded for centuries at the very least.

Simons research team think that the Great Red Spot is shrinking because smaller cyclones and anti-cyclones are feeding into the gigantic hurricane, distorting its vortex and causing a chaotic distribution of its internal energy. These parasitic storms could possibly one day sap enough momentum from the hurricane to cause its disintegration.

Up in Jupiters North Equatorial Belt, the existence of a second phenomenon, which was discovered only once decades earlier during the Voyager 2 mission, has been confirmed. This stealthy wave, found within the planets atmosphere at a latitude frequented by cyclones and anti-cyclones, appears similar in appearance to atmospheric waves on Earth. These terrestrial waves, so-called baroclinic waves,tend to appear when cyclones are beginning to form.

This elusive wave pattern on Jupiter has likely remained hidden for so long because it is often concealed beneath the clouds; when it emerges, wave crests are formed in the upper atmosphere, leaving a trace of its path.

A false-color image of the elusive wave pattern, with its wave crests indicated by the white arrows. Image credit: NASA

The long-term value of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program is really exciting, said co-author Michael H. Wong of the University of California, Berkeley, in the same statement. The collection of maps that we will build up over time will not only help scientists understand the atmospheres of our giant planets, but also the atmospheres of planets being discovered around other stars, and Earths atmosphere and oceans, too.

Think of the annual planetary portraits as the yearly school photograph for our very own Solar System. Just like a schoolchild being asked to sit still, Jupiter simply refuses.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/portrait-jupiter-reveals-detail-behind-shrinking-great-red-spot

Solar Storms Cause Enormous X-Ray Aurorae On Jupiter

Everything is bigger on Jupiter, and that includes aurorae, also known as northern or southern lights. Now, a study of Jovinian aurorae coinciding with the arrival of a solar storm has, for the first time, witnessed X-ray aurorae that outshine those on Earth hundreds of times.

Aurorae result from interactions between the solar wind and a planet’s magnetic field. Charged particles pushed out by the Sun disturb magnetospheric plasma. The shape of the magnetic field funnels these particles towards the north and south magnetic poles. When these charged particles encounter the upper atmosphere, they excite the atoms and molecules they encounter, leading to spectacular light shows.

Jupiter is five times Earth’s distance from the Sun, so it experiences a weakened solar wind. On the other hand, its enormous magnetic field dwarfs that of the Earth. Even when the Sun is not particularly active, this can lead to impressive aurorae, which made astronomerswonder what would happen when a major solar storm sent its charged particles straight towards Jupiter.

“There’s a constant power struggle between the solar wind and Jupiter’s magnetosphere, said William Dunn, a Ph.D. student at University College London, in a statement. We want to understand this interaction and what effect it has on the planet. By studying how the aurora changes, we can discover more about the region of space controlled by Jupiter’s magnetic field, and if or how this is influenced by the Sun. Understanding this relationship is important for the countless magnetic objects across the galaxy, including exoplanets, brown dwarfs and neutron stars.”

X-ray emissions viewed by the Chandra space telescope overlaid on Hubble telescope photographs of Jupiter during and after the arrival of a powerful coronal mass ejection. Joseph DePasquale, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Chandra X-ray Center

In the Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics, Dunn described observations of a coronal mass ejection (CME) that hit Jupiter in October 2011. Despite the delay in analyzing what occurred, the paper is well timed. The Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in July, having been launched not long before the storms investigated in this paper occurred.

Among Juno’s many goals is the study of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, andDunn’s work will give its operators ideas on what to look for.

Dunn’s study follows the discovery of X-ray emissions on Jupiter in the 1980s, followed by the identification in 2002 of a polar X-ray hotspot. The impact of the solar wind particleshugely accelerated by Jupiter’s magnetic fieldon the atmosphere is so powerful, it causes the release of X-rays that are visible from the Chandra X-ray telescope in Earth orbit.

With the arrival of the CME, the X-rays became eight times as powerful as previous observations, and the hotspot’s pulsing sped upfrom a period of 45 minutes to 26 minutes.

There has been debate as to whether the ions that cause the X-ray discharge comeinitiallyfrom the solar wind, or if they were previously part of the magnetosphere disturbed by an increase in wind strength. By measuring the dominant frequencies of the X-rays, Dunn found strong evidence of sulfur, which is common in Jupiter’s atmosphere. However, he detected enough carbon to suggest some of the ions came from the solar wind, of which carbon is a major component.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/jupiters-enormous-x-ray-auroras-revealed

Jupiter-like Storm Discovered On Dwarf Star

Astronomers have discovered a tiny star that has a huge storm cloud rivaling the Great Red Spotof Jupiter. The star, called W1906+40, is an old L-dwarf star that is still very active. Thisfindingis the strongest evidence yet for weather phenomena on dwarf stars.

Scientists have been studying theatmosphere of W1906+40 for the last two years, ever since they noticed that the star had a dark feature on its surface, which has now been confirmed to be a colossal cloud.

“The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said John Gizis, lead author of the study, in a statement. “We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer. The paper has been accepted by the Astrophysical Journal and its available on ArXiv.

The dwarf was first identified by NASAs Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer in 2011, andthe dark region was identifiedby Kepler two years ago. When the feature was first found, astronomers thought they were looking at a star spot (analogous to our Suns sunspots), an area on the surface of the star that is cooler and darker because of concentrated magnetic fields.

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Follow-up observations using NASAs Spitzer telescope revealed that there was no magnetism associated with the dark patch; instead, it was a gigantic storm with a diameter of three Earths. The storm rotates around the top pole of the star every nine hours, and its composed of complex molecules usually not found in stars like our Sun.

L-dwarf stars are a bit of a mixed bag of stellar objects. They are often classified as brown dwarfs, objects thatwere never able to start nuclear fusion and turn into proper stars. But some L-dwarfs were fully fledged stars thatcooled down over time. W1906+40 has a surface temperature of 2,200 Kelvins (3,500F, 1,900C), which is relatively cool for a star. The low temperature allows for the cloud formation, which would otherwise be disrupted by the energy released.

More observations are planned, as theres a lot more to understand about the origin of stellar clouds. “We don’t know if this kind of star storm is unique or common, and we don’t why it persists for so long,” concludedGizis.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/jupiter-storm-discovered-jupiter-sized-star

Three Massive Eruptions on Jupiter’s Io Within Two Weeks

Last August, Jupiter’s moon Io experienced three massive volcanic eruptions within just two weeks. Once thought to be rare outbursts, astronomers now think they’re far more common on Io and could help us understand early Earth processes. 

Io is the innermost of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. Like Earth, this satellite has volcanoes that erupt hot lava, and with its low gravity, large volcanic eruptions can produce debris rising hundreds of kilometers into space. In fact, Io is more volcanically active than any other other moon or planet in our solar system. 

“We typically expect one huge outburst every one or two years, and they’re usually not this bright,” says Imke de Pater from the University of California, Berkeley, in an university release. “Here we had three extremely bright outbursts, which suggest that if we looked more frequently we might see many more of them on Io.”

De Pater and colleagues discovered the first two eruptions on August 15, 2013 using the near-infrared camera coupled to the Keck II telescope in Hawaii. The brighter of the two occurred at a caldera named Rarog Patera, and it produced a 130-square-kilometer, 9-meter thick lava flow. The other happened near a caldera named Heno Patera and produced flows covering 310 square kilometers. Both were located in Io’s southern hemisphere and didn’t appear in images taken five days later.

The third and brightest eruption — one of Io’s brightest ever — occurred on August 29, 2013 and was observed using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea as well as NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) nearby. The thermal source had an area up to 83 square kilometers at the time of the eruption, and according to models, the event was dominated by lava fountains gushing out of fissures, forming flows that quickly spread over the moon’s surface. The team tracked the heat of this outburst for two weeks.

These images show the eruptions taken from different infrared wavelengths with Keck II on August 15 (a-c) and Gemini North on August 29 (d). Loki Patera is a lava lake that was active at around the same time.

The high eruption temperature of that third outburst indicates a composition of magma that, on Earth, only occurred in our planet’s formative years. Io resembles an early Earth, when heat from the decay of radioactive elements created high-temperature lava. Io remains volcanically active for a different reason: Jupiter and its moons Europa and Ganymede are constantly tugging on it. But these new eruptions are similar to those that shaped the surfaces of inner solar system planets like Earth and Venus when they were young. 

“We are using Io as a volcanic laboratory, where we can look back into the past of the terrestrial planets to get a better understanding of how these large eruptions took place, and how fast and how long they lasted,” says Ashley Davies of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a news release

The eruptions were described in two papers in the journal Icarus in June.

Images: NSF/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory/Katherine de Kleer (top), NSF/NASA/JPL-Caltech//UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory/W. M. Keck Observatory/Imke de Pater and Katherine de Kleer (middle)

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/three-massive-eruptions-jupiters-io-within-two-weeks

Is Jupiter Earth’s Friend or Foe?


Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, ducks behind the red giant once every seven days.

Is Jupiter a friendly planet, Earth’s enemy, or perhaps both? For decades, scientists have talked about how the giant gas planet keeps some asteroids from striking our small world, while others have pointed out that Jupiter’s gravity could send some civilization-shattering asteroids our way.

While that debate goes on, a subtler question arises about how influential Jupiter was in the early Solar System. Jupiter is by far the heavyweight planet in the Solar System, weighing in at 320 Earth masses. Its gravity not only influences small asteroids that go by, but also tugs on other planets in the solar system – including our own.

What if Jupiter had had a more eccentric orbit? Could that have affected the habitability of Earth? A new peer-reviewed study published on preprint site Arxiv, called “The role of Jupiter in driving Earth’s orbital evolution,” examines these questions in more detail. It was presented at the Australian Space Science Conference.

At first blush it appears Jupiter’s position in the solar system could vary greatly without hurting life’s beginnings as we know it, but more studies of how other planets influence Earth’s climate are needed before we can better understand what’s going on, the researchers said. Depending on how Jupiter interacts with Earth in different scenarios, Earth’s orbit could vary dramatically, thereby influencing the amount of sun we receive on the surface. Once we begin to figure out the ranges of habitability in the models, this could help us narrow the search for other habitable planets outside the Solar System that have gas giants nearby.

Life-friendly scenarios

Surveys with NASA’s Kepler space telescope and other observatories reveal one great truth about planets: they tend to form in groups. Most planets outside the solar system are found with companions. We’ve also seen an array of planetary systems, including those where gas giants known as “Hot Jupiters” are close to their parent star.

The search for habitability is often focused on finding rocky planets or moons similar in size to the Earth, and ones orbiting at the right distance from a star to make liquid water possible. However, other factors include the variability of a planet’s orbit, or the tilt of its poles, both of which could be influenced by bigger planets in that planet’s solar system.

Researchers got interested in the effects of nearby planets on life after observing the Moon.

“I started looking at the effects of the moon on Earth’s climate,” said University of London geologist David Waltham, a co-author of the study. “It’s often said the moon stabilizes the Earth’s axis. It’s wrong. It actually nearly destabilizes the axis.”

Certainly, if you suddenly took the Moon away, the Earth’s axis would destabilize. But Waltham said the better question is to ask what would happen if there was a larger moon from the beginning.

“Any initially stable planet will eventually become unstable as its spin slows but, without a moon, this could take tens or hundreds of billions of years,” Waltham said.

“Having a moon increases the rate with which the spin slows so that, in Earth’s case for example, it will only take 6 billion years (from formation) for the Earth’s axis to become unstable.”

In a nutshell, taking the Moon away today is not the same thing as not having a Moon in the first place.  We’ve had 4.5 billion years of lunar-generated spin-deceleration.

From there, Waltham began considering scenarios where moons would not destabilize a planet as quickly. One of them would be if the solar system was precessing, or moving, more slowly. This led him to wonder about the influence of other planets on Earth, a question also preoccupying Jonti Horner, an astronomer and astrobiologist at the University of Southern Queensland, who is affiliated with the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.

Jupiter on the move

The researchers ran models of our Solar System. With each iteration, seven of the eight planets in the solar system are in the same starting conditions in terms of mass, location and orbit. The eighth, Jupiter, kept the same mass but was moved around in various ways.

The researchers used different orbital eccentricities ranging from perfectly circular to orbits that are moderately eccentric, or elliptical, where Jupiter’s closest and furthest distances range 20 percent further than usual. In distance terms, this means Jupiter would rove as much as two astronomical units or Earth-sun distances in its orbit, ranging from 4.2 AU from the Sun to 6.2 AU from the sun.

In addition, the authors moved the entire orbit of Jupiter inwards and outwards (testing what would happen if it had formed closer to the Sun, or further away), and at each new location, again tested a range of orbital eccentricities between circular and moderately eccentric. This meant that, in their most extreme close-in scenario, Jupiter came all the way in to 3.4 AU at perihelion, while in the most extreme distant scenario, it ranged out to over 7.4 AU from the Sun.

Using tens of thousands of permutations, Waltham and Horner stepped forward each simulation through a million years of time, recording Earth’s orbital parameters every 100 years and then charting the results.

“The default assumption is this is something that is important,” Horner said. “There’s a lot of flexibility where Jupiter will be, and you would assume that you’d have a very smooth, very gentle variation in how the Earth’s orbit behaves over time.”

The model showed that most of Jupiter’s locations resulted in little change in Earth’s orbit and tilt, although the effect on Earth’s climate is unclear. Horner said he is working with James Gilmore, a climatologist at University of London, to better understand how changes in the Earth’s tilt or orbit would affect its habitability. Changing the tilt would affect the seasons, while changing the orbit would alter the amount of sun on the surface.

Waltham, meanwhile, says there is a discrepancy between the results in this study and a previous one he had done with analytical equations showing that Jupiter’s position has a striking influence on Earth’s climate. While he believes this study is more accurate, he wants to go back to his earlier work to resolve the difference.

Searching for life beyond Earth

Although this simulation dealt specifically with the Earth-Jupiter relationship, there are implications for worlds that are beyond our Solar System’s reaches, the researchers said. Take solar systems that are comprised of planets orbiting in spaces as small as Mercury’s orbit of the Sun.

“It’s about spacing,” Waltham said. “I think there is a strong implication that compact solar systems are less likely to have planets with stable axes, which makes them less likely to be habitable.”

That said, he warns there are no “absolute rules” about habitability. There could be scenarios where the axis moves too quickly for complex life to keep up, but simple life forms such as bacteria are be able to evolve fast enough to adapt to temperature changes.

Horner, meanwhile, is examining scenarios under which giant planets send giant impactors, such as asteroids, towards inner planets. For Earth, a Jupiter-sized planet is both a good and a bad thing. The gas giant absorbs some impacts from meteorites, but also alters the orbits of small bodies and could send them towards Earth.

He added that the new research underscores how a small change in parameters could change habitability wildly, pointing to the need to look at more solar systems in formation to see under what conditions planets form. Examining new solar systems will be a strength of NASA’s forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which is launching into space in 2018.

Horner emphasized that the numerous simulations his team ran on Jupiter’s influence in the solar system shows that where planets end up is often a result of chance as much as physics.

“Every object you add to [a planetary] system adds complexity, and the end result is a result of random chances,” said Horner. “So if you change something very small when the solar system is forming, it’s kind of chaotic.”

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/01/jupiter-earth-stable-axis-habitability/

North America To Scale On Various Planets In Our Solar System

We’ve all seen images comparing the size of Earth with that of other planets in the solar system. The problem, John Brady of Astronomy Central realized, is that these images assume a grasp of Earth’s scale. So Brady decided to do something different and compare astronomical objects with pieces of the planet his readers may be familiar with

Suddenly, with the huge continent of North America dwarfed by Jupiter’s storms, the universe seems an even larger place. In the other direction, Mars looks so much more human-scaled.

John Brady/Astronomy Central. How the U.S. and Canada would measure up to Mars.

Brady has also reversed the process, showing what the solar system’s largest mountain, Olympus Mons, would look like if it replaced the Grand Canyon as Arizona’s prime tourist attraction. At 26 kilometers (85,000 ft) high, it would truly be a wonder, since the Earth’s greater gravity restricts mountains to a third of that size or less.

John Brady/Astronomy Central. If located appropriately, Olympus Mons would cover the whole state of Arizona.

Not everything makes us feel small. If you live in Liverpool, UK, you might be tempted to go for a bike ride around the area that Brady shows would be encompassed by a neutron star, or make an equivalent image for your own home with the help of satellite photos.

John Brady/Astronomy CentralNeturon stars really are the size of a city.
Brady told the Huffington Post, “I got the ‘North America on Jupiter’ image to scale by looking at size comparisons on NASA images of Earth compared to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The Mars image with North America placed over it was done by knowing the diameter of the red planet, then finding the distance between two U.S. cities. I used New York and San Francisco.” 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/universe-north-american-scale

Jupiter’s Largest Moon Gets Mapped For the First Time

Galileo discovered a point of light near Jupiter in 1610, which he initially thought was a star. A few days later he corrected himself and named the satellite Ganymede, which is not only the largest moon around Jupiter, but the largest in the entire solar system.  Over 400 years later, scientists have finally been able to complete a geologic map of the entire moon. The study was led by Wes Patterson from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and was published by the U. S. Geological Survey.

Ganymede is the third of the Galilean satellites and takes about a week to revolve around Jupiter. Its diameter is actually larger than the planet Mercury but it has just one quarter of Mercury’s mass. Ganymede also has a special property that no other moon in our solar system has: a magnetosphere. Scientists believe that Ganymede’s core is made of molten iron, just like Earth.

Ganymede has been imaged thoroughly during the Voyager and Galileo missions, images which were integral to making the geological map. This is the fourth map of its kind to be created, which categorize differences of the terrain which formed at different times. Geologic maps exist of two of Jupiter’s other moons, Io and Callisto, as well as Earth’s moon. The information will be used in order to help understand how the moon was formed and how it changed over time due to collisions.

Ganymede’s surface is composed mostly of ice with a mantle of rock surrounding the molten core, but there are incredibly interesting geological features. The darker areas are the oldest regions of the moon. There is a considerable number of craters due to impacts over the course of the solar system’s history. The lighter regions are relatively younger and are thought to have been formed by tectonic activity which was influenced by a dynamic gravitational relationship with Jupiter’s other satellites. The gravitational pull likely caused tectonic friction, which heat up the ice enough to crack it and for water to escape out. Once at the surface the water could freeze over again, essentially making ice scars. 

Scientists have noted that nearly every geological feature discovered on an icy moon can also be found on Ganymede, making this map an incredibly useful tool in understanding how the surface topography formed and evolved.

The full map, which includes several other images and an extensive legend, can be viewed on the website for the U.S. Geological Survey. Image credit: USGS

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/jupiter%E2%80%99s-largest-moon-gets-mapped-first-time

Why Are Jupiter’s Storms Backwards?

Why do Jupiters storms rotate backwards compared to those on Earth? Scientists now think they have an answer and its all to do with gas flowing upwards from deep within the giant planet.

On Earth, the Coriolis effect causes our storms to rotate in the same direction as the rotation of the planet, but on Jupiter they rotate in the opposite direction. This new study, by scientists at the University of Alberta in Canada and the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research (MPS) in Germany, shows that an interaction between the layers of Jupiters atmosphere is the key to this phenomenon.The research is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium, and within 90 percent of the planets radius, the high pressure from the atmosphere above makes this mixture metallic and able to conduct electricity. Beyond this region, though, the gas is normalized in itsnon-metallic, gaseous state.

The interaction of rising gas and this outermost layer produces the weather patterns we can see. But on Earth the vortices of storms form at the bottom of these rising masses of air, whereas on Jupiter the vortices form at the top, in this upper layer of the atmosphere7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) thick. According to the model, this accounts for the backwards movement of Jupiters storms relative to our planet.

The new model is pretty good, but it still can’t explain Jupiter’s fascinating Great Red Spot. Shown is a false color image of the storm from Voyager 1. NASA

“Our high-resolution computer simulation now shows that an interaction between the movements in the deep interior of the planet and an outer stable layer is crucial,” Johannes Wicht from the MPS said in a statement.

For the first time, the model was also able to successfully explain why Jupiters whirlwinds appear in wide bands north and south of the equator. It was within one of these bands that the mighty anticyclone known as the Great Red Spot, three times the size of Earth, has raged for more than 400 years.

However, as good as this new model is, it was unable to explain how anticyclones on Jupiter can last for many years, with storms in the simulation normally dissipating after just a few days. It suggests there is still much about Jupiter, particularly its Great Red Spot, that we still do not know.

“We are just beginning to understand Jupiters weather phenomena,”Wicht explained in the statement. “In addition to its size and durability, the Red Spot has other special features such as its characteristic color. Additional processes seem to be involved here that we dont yet comprehend.”

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/mystery-jupiters-backwards-storms-solved-new-model

Jupiter’s Core May Be Shrinking Faster Than Previously Believed

Jupiter is renowned for being the largest planet in our solar system, making up 70% of all planetary mass. Most of this is a thick, gassy atmosphere, but it has been predicted to have a solid, rocky core. Scientists believe this core could be diminishing due to the intense atmospheric conditions near the core. A new study using updated modeling techniques has yielded evidence that the core may be dissolving much faster than previously believed, making the current state of the core unknown. Hugh Wilson of RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, was sole author of the paper, which was published in the journal Icarus.

The atmosphere of Jupiter is roughly 90% hydrogen, 10% helium, and very little of anything else. However, the crushing pressure and extreme temperatures are so great down toward the core that the hydrogen actually exists as a supercritical fluid. The nature of this fluid would have caused some of the molecules from the core to diffuse and come away from the solid.  

The exact composition of the core isn’t known, though it is predicted to have a fair amount of carbon, iron, and silicon. Wilson’s 2011 paper predicted that the rocky core contained elements that would be soluble in Jupiter’s atmosphere. He and co-author Burkhard Militzer of UC Berkeley used magnesium oxide as a probable material of the rock’s composition. In the model calculations, this proved to be quite soluble in the fluid atmosphere and indicated that Jupiter’s core is shrinking.

However, Wilson’s new research used a quantum-mechanical model to explore how certain elements believed to be abundant in Jupiter’s core would act in that fluid environment. The results suggest that this process could be occurring twice as quickly than previous research has indicated. 

“Constructing accurate planetary models which include semiconvective processes requires accurate estimates of the diffusion constants of minority chemical species in planetary fluids, which have not previously been available,” Wilson wrote in the current paper

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently en route to Jupiter to collect data about the planet’s composition. It is due to insert into the gas giant’s orbit on July 5, 2016. Juno is carrying a suite of instruments to analyze the planet in microwave, radio, ultraviolet, and infrared wavelengths. It will also study the gravitational particles, energetic particles, gravity, and plasma, in addition to taking close-up images. This data will give scientists a more complete picture of the conditions within Jupiter, and will be used to make more accurate models in the future about the rate at which the planet’s core is changing.

[Hat tip: New Scientist]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/jupiter-s-core-may-be-shrinking-faster-previously-believed

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn Are About To Align

This month will see a passing moment where Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn the five planets visible from Earth by the naked eye will appear in a line from the horizon to the Moon.

The alignment of these five earthly neighbors will be visible from Wednesday, January 20 to Saturday, February 20.

Dr. Tanya Hill, senior curator at the Melbourne Planetarium, told Australian Geographicthat if you don’t catch the allignment this month, youllbe able to see it again in August of this year, and then again in October 2018.

Dr. Alan Duffy, research fellow at Swinburne University in Melbourne, also spoke to Australian Geographic and gave some advice on how best to see the alignment.

Since Mercury will appear very close to the horizon, find a nice open spot, away from tall buildings or trees. Getting as far away from city lights is also advisable, so each planet’s glow isn’t too drowned out by light pollution.

Venus and Jupiter, however, should be fairly easy to spot and Mars distinctive red glow should give itself away. If you can find one of these planets, just hold up your arm so its in line with it and the Moon the rest should fall vaguely in line with your arm.

There are only a few amazing things in the night sky that can be seen without any equipment, Dr. Duffy said, adding that this is something well worth seeing.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/mercury-venus-mars-jupiter-and-saturn-are-about-align