Jupiter’s Ice Layer

December 2017

Think about a hot just-born planet. Wouldn’t it give off steam? And then the steam rises with energy away from the planet. As it encounters cold space, it condenses and then freezes. Planet formation involves a large burst of vapor including steam; and this freezes into a hard shell of ice around a new planet. Just like a moon stays in relative position to a planet as the planet spins and orbits the sun, so too does the ice layer keep its relative position. The ice layers of the inner 4 planets have been destroyed over time due to different reasons. But Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune all have their ice shells.

Mass Vortex Theory predicts that Jupiter has a shell of ice under the top skin of gas. The gas layer is about 3500 – 3700 km thick (as indicated by research released in March 2018). The thickness of the ice layer is hard to predict. We are looking forward to confirmation and measurements from Juno.


“There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.”[1] — Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio

“Scientists are puzzled to see that the familiar striped cloud patterns of Jupiter may be only skin deep.”[2] — Kenneth Chang, NY Times, May 25, 2017

The gases at the poles are thin, and the ice is clear so that we can see Jupiter’s atmosphere underneath in the image of Jupiter above.

1. Observations from NASA’s Juno probe show a distribution of ammonia in the outer 350 km of Jupiter that look like a phenomenon on Earth called the Hadley cell. The distribution of ammonia is shown in orange in the image below.

Scott Bolton, the Principal Investigator of Juno, reported this phenomenon at the press conference on May 25, 2017 to share the findings to date from Juno. He remarked that such behavior was surprising because Jupiter did not have a solid surface like Earth for creating this kind of atmospheric circulation. Now, Reader, you understand the explanation. Jupiter does have a solid surface under its thick layer of gas — an ice layer. This ammonia Hadley cell is evidence of the ice layer, even though the ice layer has not been officially confirmed yet.

2. Further support for Jupiter’s debris and ice layer is found in results from comet fragments that fell into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1994. Waves rippled out from the crash sites, consistent with a stable “trapping” layer that acted as a “horizontal waveguide.”[3] This “trapping” layer is highly stable and large. The authors of the paper reporting this did not understand the source of the stable trapping layer … but it can be explained by the ice layer predicted by Mass Vortex Theory.

3. Even more support comes from Jupiter’s Moment of Inertia Factor. The Moment of Inertia Factor [MoIF] is a standardized moment of inertia that ranges from .4 for a uniform distribution of material inside a rotating sphere to 0 for intense mass density at the center rapidly changing to small mass density pretty rapidly. Learn more about Moment of Inertia Factor from Wikipedia. Earth has an MoIF of .331 and it has a very dense core changing to less dense mantle with a thin skin of the lighter crust. Jupiter has an MoIF of .254. This MoIF does not go with a homogeneous sphere of hydrogen — even one where the density increases due to pressure that increases with depth; but it does go with the layers predicted by Mass Vortex Theory: iron-nickel core, lower mantle, upper mantle, crust & ocean, atmosphere, ice, and outer skin of gaseous debris.

Will NASA’s Juno Probe Confirm Mass Vortex Theory?

UPDATE March 2018: “below the jet stream layer, Jupiter rotates as a rigid body” [4]

Learn more about the Juno mission from NASA’s video that introduces the Juno probe prior to its first close fly-by: Juno: Jupiter Into the Unknown

[1] A Whole New Jupiter: First Science Results from NASA’s Juno Mission
[2] NASA’s Jupiter Mission Reveals the ‘Brand-New and Unexpected’
[3] 1994: “Waves from the collisions of comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 with Jupiter” by Andrew P. Ingersoll & Hiroo Kanamori, Nature 374, 706 – 708 (20 April 1994); doi:10.1038/374706a0