Feeds

Jupiter and Saturn: chalk and cheese

Boffins question gas giants' roots

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

The gas giants Jupiter and Saturn must have formed in radically different ways, according to research conducted at the Los Alamos Laboratory which reveals totally different structures at the cores of the two great planets.

Dider Saumon created new computer models of the cores of both Jupiter and Saturn, based on astrophysical observations and the results of a series of shock compression experiments on hydrogen. During these experiments, hydrogen gas was subject to extreme pressures - approaching those found inside a gas giant.

After running his models, Saumon concluded that in Saturn, heavy elements like iron, silicon, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are concentrated in the core of the planet. Although these elements are present in similar quantities in Jupiter, Saumon's models indicate that larger giant has very little central core, with the elements diffused throughout its gaseous layers. This difference suggests the two planets must have formed in very different ways, billions of years ago.

By allowing for every possible variation permitted by astrophysical observations, and the results of the shock compression experiments, Saumon developed around 50,000 models of the internal structure of both planets. "We tried to include every possible variation that might be allowed by the experimental data on shock compression of deuterium," he said.

The data generated by the shock compression of hydrogen was essential to the research. The gas giants in our solar system are composed of approximately 70 per cent hydrogen, with the other 30 per cent being mostly helium and small amounts of heavier elements. However, the equation of state for hydrogen at high pressures, how it behaves, is not well understood.

The compression experiments shone new light on the behaviour of hydrogen in high-pressure environments, reducing the uncertainties in calculations and, Saumon says, dramatically improving the models of the planets' structures.

"There's been general agreement that the cores of Saturn and Jupiter are different," Saumon said. "What's new here is how exhaustive these models are. We've managed to eliminate or quantify many of the uncertainties, so we have much better confidence in the range within which the actual data will fall for hydrogen, and therefore for the refractory metals and other elements."

He concluded: "Although we can't say our models are precise, we know quite well how imprecise they are." ®

Related stories

Astronomers weigh ultra-cool brown dwarf
Astronomers probe star wrapped in comets
Cassini runs rings round Saturn
Boffins spot planetoid at 8bn miles

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?