When did scientists realize that Jupiter had no solid ground?

Avery Davis Avery Davis Nov 24, 2019 · 2 mins read
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Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun and the largest planet in our solar system, has always been a subject of fascination for scientists and astronomers. For a long time, it was believed that Jupiter had a solid surface, just like the other planets in our solar system. However, as technology advanced and observational techniques improved, scientists gradually came to realize that Jupiter was quite different from what they previously thought.

The idea that Jupiter might not have a solid surface first came to light in the early 1600s, when Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei observed the planet through his newly-invented telescope. Galilei noticed that Jupiter had four large moons, which he dubbed the Galilean moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto). He observed that these moons appeared to orbit around Jupiter in a regular pattern, which was inconsistent with the idea that Jupiter had a solid surface. Galilei suggested that Jupiter was actually a massive gas giant, with no solid ground.

It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that scientists were able to confirm Galilei’s hypothesis. In 1973, NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft flew past Jupiter and sent back data that revealed that the planet had a powerful magnetic field, which suggested the presence of a dense, fluid interior. This was confirmed a few years later by NASA’s Voyager missions, which found that Jupiter’s atmosphere was composed mostly of hydrogen and helium gas, with trace amounts of other elements. These missions also showed that Jupiter had no visible surface features, such as mountains or valleys, which further supported the idea that the planet had no solid ground.

Further evidence came from NASA’s Galileo mission, which orbited Jupiter for several years in the 1990s. The Galileo spacecraft sent back data indicating that Jupiter’s interior was composed of a metallic hydrogen layer, followed by a layer of molecular hydrogen. This suggested that the planet had no solid surface or core.

Today, scientists are still learning about the mysteries of Jupiter and its composition. Recent missions to the planet, such as NASA’s Juno spacecraft, continue to explore the planet’s interior and its magnetic field. The more we learn about Jupiter, the more we realize how unique and fascinating this giant gas planet truly is.

Avery Davis
Written by Avery Davis
Unleashing potential with passion and purpose.