A Look into How Our Planets, and Then Eventually, Our Solar System was Formed


In the article, “How do Planets Form? Juno’s Jupiter Mission Aims to Find Out“, author Mike Wall explores some discoveries about the Jovian planet, Jupiter and its formation.  According to the article, Juno is a spacecraft that began its orbit around the planet Jupiter on July 4, 2016.  In a previous blog that I wrote (please see NASA’s Juno Mission Originally Set to Demonstrate Kepler’s Laws), we learned that the Juno mission was set in motion so that the spacecraft could take pictures of the planet Jupiter.  These pictures were to aid researchers in studying the composition, magnetic and gravitational fields, and interior structure of the planet.  The spacecraft would was eventually supposed to perform an engine burn that would bring it closer to the planet.  However, the spacecraft was not moved closer to the planet as originally planned because of a concern regarding radiation that could have potentially damaged the spacecraft or compromised the mission objectives.  The spacecraft was still set in motion to orbit the planet but was not moved any closer to the planet to avoid the risk.

In the article on planet formation, Wall takes the reader on a closer look at how Juno’s mission aids us in learning how planets form in our solar system.  According to the Juno mission’s principal investigator, Scott Bolton, Jupiter was the first planet to form so it only makes sense to look at it as a helper in understanding how other planets formed.  The mission got its name from Roman mythology.  Juno was Jupiter’s wife and was able to see all his hidden behaviors even though he tried to hide them behind clouds that he created.  The mission took on the role of Jupiter’s wife.  The “behaviors” it explored was the gaseous and cloudy atmosphere of the planet Jupiter.  Once researchers examine the pictures that were taken by the spacecraft, we will know what is at the core of Jupiter, if it has a core.  According to Bolton, if the spacecraft locates a core, then Jupiter formed after rocks formed.  If not, then it is possible that the planet formed from gas and dust like the Sun.  The mission will also study “fast-moving charged particles near Jupiter’s poles while observing the gas giant’s powerful auroras.”  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, auroras are “a luminous phenomenon that consists of streamers or arches of light appearing in the upper atmosphere of a planet’s magnetic polar regions and is caused by the emission of light from atoms excited by electrons accelerated along the planet’s magnetic field lines.”  Researchers are going to take their aurora observations from the planet Jupiter and compare them with that of other planets to help in the process as well.

As we learned in class, we need lots of gases in order to make stars.  But, after stars are formed there is left over debris.  Young stars are held in a type of “baby star nursery” called a nebula.  Pictured below is a shot of the Orion nebula.


(Hubble’s Sharpest View of the Orion Nebula)

Gravity pulls the gases and dust into a rotating rounded shape called a protoplanetary disk.  In the protoplanetary disk, the dust, gas, and other materials follow some type of consistent motion or rotation.  And, as time goes on, collisions can take place through the exchange of energy between the particles.  Eventually, over time, planets will form.  The key to understanding what type of planets form is locked up in the temperature that the planets are formed at.  In the article, Wall mentioned that researchers were going to be looking at the atmosphere of the planet and the auroras at the poles.  We learned that auroras are luminous arches of light located in the atmosphere of planets.  Luminosity is dependent on temperature and size.  The temperature these auroras gave off might further confirm at what temperature the planet Jupiter was formed.  Who knows?

In the lecture tutorial that we worked on entitled, Temperature and Formation of Our Solar System pictured below, we saw that Jovian planets like Jupiter formed at temperatures cooler than the freezing point of water.  Maybe the auroras might give some type of insight into the temperature at the poles depending on their current locations.


I know that it is very difficult to study the planet Jupiter without getting an even closer look at the planet’s atmosphere.  This is why the Juno mission was initially set to move in so close to the planet.  But, the planet is very large and mostly made up of helium and hydrogen with little amounts of rock and other materials.  I am not sure if the studies that will be conducted on the Juno mission findings will come to show anything different that what is already known.  I personally think that their findings will just confirm and give more evidence into what we already know.


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