Scientists have said that Jupiter is not only the biggest but also the oldest planet in our solar system and was born within four millions years after the Sun was formed. This revelation of the age of the Jupiter comes as a breakthrough as it will play a key role in understanding how the solar system evolved towards its present-day architecture.
Previously, it was revealed that Jupiter was born relatively early however its birth has never been dated until now. Thomas Kruijer, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the US said that no sample from Jupiter is available till date.
“We do not have any samples from Jupiter (in contrast to other bodies like the Earth, Mars, the moon and asteroids),” he said.
“In our study, we use isotope signatures of meteorites (which are derived from asteroids) to infer Jupiter’s age,” said Kruijer lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists studied tungsten and molybdenum isotopes on iron meteorites and discovered that meteorites are made up from two genetically distinct nebular reservoirs that coexisted but remained separated between one million and 3-4 million years after the solar system formed.
“The most plausible mechanism for this efficient separation is the formation of Jupiter, opening a gap in the disc and preventing the exchange of material between the two reservoirs,” said Kruijer.
“Jupiter is the oldest planet of the solar system, and its solid core formed well before the solar nebula gas dissipated, consistent with the core accretion model for giant planet formation,” he said.
Given the fact that it is the biggest planet in the solar system, Jupiter created an immense effect on the dynamics of the solar accretion disk.
Scientists used isotope analysis of meteorites and found that the solid core of the gas giant formed within only about one million years after the beginning of the solar system history, making it the oldest planet.
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Jupiter acted as an effective barrier against inward transport of material across the disk through its rapid formation, potentially explaining why our solar system lacks any super-Earths (an extrasolar planet with a mass higher than Earth’s).
Within one million years, Jupiter’s core grew to about 20 Earth masses, followed by a more prolonged growth to 50 Earth masses until at least 3-4 million years after the solar system formed, the team found.
The earlier theories proposed that gas-giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn involved the growth of large solid cores of about 10 to 20 Earth masses, followed by the accumulation of gas onto these cores.
So the conclusion was the gas-giant cores must have formed before dissipation of the solar nebula - the gaseous circumstellar disk surrounding the young sun - which likely occurred between 1 million years and 10 million years after the solar system formed.
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“We’re able to date Jupiter much more precisely within 1 million years using the isotopic signatures of meteorites,” researchers said.
Despite the fact that the rapid accretion of the cores has been modelled, it had not been possible to date their formation.
“Our measurements show that the growth of Jupiter can be dated using the distinct genetic heritage and formation times of meteorites,” Kruijer said.
(With inputs from PTI)