“It’s a shame we don’t have it naturally here on earth, but on Jupiter, there are oceans of metallic hydrogen. We want to find out how these oceans give rise to Jupiter’s enormous magnetic field,” observed Mohamed Zaghoo with the University of Rochester’s Laboratory of Laser Energetics (LLE) and colleague Gilbert ‘Rip’ Collins, director of the high-energy-density physics program. Astrophysicists have long thought that terrestrial planets with magnetic fields are better able to sustain gaseous atmospheres and are more likely to harbor life.
Radio signals from two NASA probes, Cassini at Saturn (above) and Juno at Jupiter, is allowing researchers to pierce the swirling clouds that hide the deep interiors of Jupiter and Saturn, where crushing pressure transforms matter into states unknown on Earth –“the two planets are more complex than we thought,” says Ravit Helled, a planetary scientist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “Giant planets are not simple balls of hydrogen and helium.”