What is inside Jupiter? Here is what science says

By Jeff Ayers — / Death Wish Coffee Blog

We have never been able to peer into the dense cloud formations that make up Jupiter, the gas giant planet, the fifth and largest planet in our solar system. Thanks to the incredible JUNO mission from NASA, we have been able to study this planet up close and reveal its secrets a little bit at a time.



The chemical makeup of 96% of Jupiter's mass acts like a solid body, even though it isn't. A dense mixture of molecular hydrogen and metallic hydrogen make up the bulk of the planet, and that is pretty incredible. But the data doesn't end there.

The depth of the cloud systems and the chemical makeup of what may lie beneath has been a mystery for decades. Famed astronomer Galileo Galilei first discovered the stripes of storm systems on Jupiter 400 years ago and we have been trying to figure them out ever since.

With JUNO performing a close flyby of the planet every 53 days, its scientific instruments are able to gather some amazing data up close. According to JUNO co-investigator Dr. Luciano Iess, "Gravity measurements by the spacecraft have shown that the planet's gravity field indicates a north-south asymmetry, similar to the asymmetry observed in its zones and belts."

On Jupiter, the visible eastward and westward jet streams are likewise asymmetric north and south. The deeper the jets, the more mass they contain, leading to a stronger signal expressed in the gravity field.

What this all means is that this is all surprising results - the weather layer on Jupiter is more massive and extends deeper than anyone previously thought. From its very top to its depth, the weather system extends 1900 miles, or 3,000 kilometers and contains about one percent of Jupiter's total mass.

While that might not seem like a lot, here is a little perspective. On Earth, our atmosphere is less than one millionth the mass of our planet. By comparison, the mass of Jupiter's atmosphere is equal to 3 Earths. That is massive.

If you want to hear more and see some incredible footage from NASA watch our recent episode of Fueled By Death Cast THE SHOW.

Tune in every Wednesday on Facebook or YouTube to hear our hosts start every show with a new and exciting topic from the world of Science. 

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