The findings come from a fairly clear view of the chemicals beneath Jupiter’s cloudy outer atmosphere.
So far, little is known about the planet which is the largest in the Solar System. The telescope captured thousands of images of the swirling cloud vortex in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere, but a view of its interior was not revealed due to an obstructing storm.
“Jupiter was one of the earliest planets to form in our Solar System,” said Yamila Miguel, an astrophysicist at Leiden University who led the study.
Reported Live ScienceMiguel said almost nothing is known about how the planet formed.
In the new study, researchers were finally able to peer through Jupiter’s cloud cover using gravity data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. This data allowed the team to map the rocky material in the giant planet’s core, which reveals a very high abundance of heavy elements.
Then the chemical makeup found showed Jupiter devouring small planets or so-called planetesimals to encourage its expansive growth.
Jupiter is a large ball of gas, but it still begins its life by accumulating rocky material, like most of the other planets in the Solar System.
The planet’s gravity is constantly pulling rocky material into the core, making it very dense. Then this planet attracts large amounts of gas, even gas that is very far away eventually forms Jupiter’s atmosphere.
The gas that Jupiter attracts a lot is hydrogen and helium left over from the formation of the Sun.
Explained Space, there are two competing theories about how Jupiter managed to collect rock material. One theory is that Jupiter amassed billions of smaller space rocks, which astronomers call pebbles (though these rocks may be closer to rock than actual pebbles are).
Another theory is supported by findings from the new study, which says Jupiter’s core was formed from the absorption of many planetesimals or large space rocks that span several kilometers.
This rock if left undisturbed has the potential to develop into the seeds of smaller rocky planets like Earth or Mars.