Enrichment of Jupiter's Atmosphere by Late Planetesimal Bombardment

Sho Shibata*, Ravit Helled

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jupiter's atmosphere is enriched with heavy elements by a factor of about 3 compared to a protosolar composition. The origin of this enrichment and whether it represents the bulk composition of the planetary envelope remain unknown. Internal structure models of Jupiter suggest that its envelope is separated from the deep interior and that the planet is not fully mixed. This implies that Jupiter's atmosphere was enriched with heavy elements just before the end of its formation. Such enrichment can be a result of late planetesimal accretion. However, in situ Jupiter formation models suggest a decreasing accretion rate with increasing planetary mass, which cannot explain Jupiter's atmospheric enrichment. In this study, we model Jupiter's formation and show that the migration of proto-Jupiter from 1/420 au to its current location can lead to late planetesimal accretion and atmospheric enrichment. Late planetesimal accretion does not occur if proto-Jupiter migrates only a few astronomical units. We suggest that if Jupiter's outermost layer is fully mixed and is relatively thin (up to 1/420% of its mass), such late accretion can explain its measured atmospheric composition. It is therefore possible that Jupiter underwent significant orbital migration followed by late planetesimal accretion.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL37
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung200020 _ 188460


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