Jupiter's Lack of Atmospheric Neon Studied

BERKELEY, Calif., March 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists hypothesize Jupiter’s interior conditions cause helium to condense into droplets, explaining the scarcity of neon in the plant’s atmosphere.

University of California-Berkeley scientists say neon dissolves in the helium raindrops and falls towards the deeper interior where it re-dissolves, depleting the upper layers of both elements, consistent with observations.


“Helium condenses initially as a mist in the upper layer, like a cloud, and as the droplets get larger, they fall toward the deeper interior,” said post-doctoral fellow Hugh Wilson, co-author of the study. “Neon dissolves in the helium and falls with it. So our study links the observed missing neon in the atmosphere to another proposed process, helium rain.”

Wilson’s co-author, Assistant Professor Burkhard Militzer, noted rain as we know it on Earth is actually an imperfect analogy to what happens in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

He said the helium droplets form about 6,000-8,000 miles below the tops of Jupiter’s hydrogen clouds, under extraordinarily high pressures and temperatures that make the “rain” really droplets of fluid helium mixed with neon falling through a fluid of metallic hydrogen.

The researchers say their study will help refine models of Jupiter’s interior and the interiors of other planets.

The research is detailed in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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