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Is Jupiter's Core Dissolving?

Theory holds that midsection is slowly shrinking
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2011 9:48 AM CST

(Newser) – Jupiter may be the largest planet in our solar system, but what if its massive core is actually dissolving? Jupiter's core of iron, rock, and ice is suspended in a sea of hydrogen and helium, under pressure 40 million times greater than that which we experience on Earth, and at temperatures hotter than the surface of the Sun. Unsurprisingly, those incredible forces have some powerful effects—including possibly liquefying the core's important magnesium oxide, according to new quantum mechanical calculations reported by Wired.

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The scientists behind the calculations have also predicted that the ice at Jupiter's core is dissolving, so it could be that the planet's core is smaller now than when it was formed. Wired notes that NASA's Juno spacecraft will arrive at the planet in 2016, and observations it makes about Jupiter's gravitational field could shed more light on the matter. (Read more Jupiter stories.)

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