It’s likely Jupiter had a colossal collision with a still-forming planet 4.5 billion years ago, say Rice University and Sun Yat-sen University astronomers.
It’s the only way to explain the puzzling gravitational readings from NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Jupiter, which likely began per theorists as a dense, rocky, or icy planet from the sun’s birth gas and dust, was far less dense than expected.
The only scenario that makes sense, says China’s Shang-Fei Liu, “is a head-on impact with a planetary embryo about 10 times more massive than Earth.”
There’s a 40% chance that Jupiter could indeed swallow a planetary embryo within its first few million years, with Jupiter’s strong gravitation force prompting head-on collisions.