Connecting the Gravity Field, Moment of Inertia, and Core Properties in Jupiter through Empirical Structural Models

Benno A. Neuenschwander*, Ravit Helled, Naor Movshovitz, Jonathan J. Fortney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constraining Jupiter's internal structure is crucial for understanding its formation and evolution history. Recent interior models of Jupiter that fit Juno's measured gravitational field suggest an inhomogeneous interior and potentially the existence of a diluted core. These models, however, strongly depend on the model assumptions and the equations of state used. A complementary modeling approach is to use empirical structural models. These can later be used to reveal new insights into the planetary interior and be compared to standard models. Here we present empirical structural models of Jupiter where the density profile is constructed by piecewise-polytropic equations. With these models we investigate the relation between the normalized moment of inertia (MoI) and the gravitational moments J 2 and J 4. Given that only the first few gravitational moments of Jupiter are measured with high precision, we show that an accurate and independent measurement of the MoI value could be used to further constrain Jupiter's interior. An independent measurement of the MoI with an accuracy better than ∼0.1% could constrain Jupiter's core region and density discontinuities in its envelope. We find that models with a density discontinuity at ∼1 Mbar, as would produce a presumed hydrogen-helium separation, correspond to a fuzzy core in Jupiter. We next test the appropriateness of using polytropes, by comparing them with empirical models based on polynomials. We conclude that both representations result in similar density profiles and ranges of values for quantities like core mass and MoI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


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