Space's Deepest Secrets (2016–…): Season 2, Episode 5 - Secret History of Jupiter - full transcript

Recent discoveries by NASA's Juno mission reveal new secrets about Jupiter, a strange world that is more like a star than a planet. As scientists uncover what lies beneath its violent ...

Jupiter... our largest

planetary neighbor.

Jupiter is the king of

the planets for a good reason.

- It's the biggest.
- It's the baddest.

It dominated the evolution

of the solar system.

Jupiter is a violent

world of radiation and storms

on an epic scale.

The interior of Jupiter
- is kind of hard to imagine.

There may be a

layer inside Jupiter

where you get diamond rain.

Today, NASA's Juno mission

is unraveling

Jupiter's deepest secrets.

What forces shape

its mysterious storms

and cause volcanic eruptions

that jet lava deep into space?

Jupiter actually has

more in common with our sun

- than it does with any of
- the other planets

in the solar system.

We venture deep inside

the most extreme planet

in the solar system

to reveal its inner secrets

and investigate

if Jupiter could actually

be the sun's secret twin.

Captions by vita...

captions paid for by

discovery communications

Jupiter... the fifth planet

from the sun

and the largest

in the solar system.

Made almost entirely

of hydrogen and helium,

Jupiter stretches more than

85,000 miles across.

It's unfathomably big.

You know, you can fit

a thousand earths inside.

Jupiter is a beast

of a planet.

It's 317 times

the mass of the earth.

It has individual storms on it

that could contain

the entire earth.

Now, scientists

have launched a mission

to study Jupiter

in more detail

than ever before.

Juno is orbiting

this oversized world,

snapping close-up images

and collecting data.

Scientists are uncovering

the secrets

of an extraordinarily complex

and unique world.

Jupiter has 67 known moons

and probably a giant

number of ones

that are not yet known.

It's like a miniature

solar system all of its own.

It's a whole environment,

a whole ecosystem.

It has enormous
- magnetic fields.

It has intense radiation.

- No matter which way
- you cut it,

Jupiter stands in a class

on its own.

The conditions on

and around Jupiter are extreme.

It doesn't behave like

an ordinary planet.

Formed at the beginning

of the solar system

from the same stuff as the sun,

Jupiter is an enigma.

Is it hiding

a secret history?

Could Jupiter be

a star in disguise?

Spread across 50 square miles

of baking sand

in the scorching Mojave desert,

these giant telescopes

listen for radio signals

in outer space.

NASA's Steve Levin

is on the front line,

unlocking the secrets

of Jupiter.

We've known about Jupiter

for thousands of years,

- and we've studied it
- with telescopes

for hundreds of years.

In fact, Jupiter was one

of the very first objects

in the sky that was studied

with telescopes.

But when we started

using radio telescopes,

we learned a lot

of surprises about Jupiter.

These telescopes observe space

by looking at radio waves

rather than visible light.

And the radio waves

that come from Jupiter

aren't what scientists expect

to see from a planet.

One of the surprises was this

enormous bright radio source

that turned out

to be Jupiter.

Jupiter gives off

a huge radio signal

far too bright for its size.

Scientists think these signals

are created by

small, charged particles

interacting with

a magnetic field.

Most planets have

a magnetic field,

but Jupiter's is far larger

than any other.

Jupiter's is the
- brightest radio signal

that is part of the sky.

- It's the largest magnetic field
- of any planet

in our solar system, by far.

So, what is causing

Jupiter's huge magnetic field?

Scientists believe

the answer might lie

within alien chemistry

deep within the planet.

More than 300 million miles

from earth,

Jupiter is an unimaginably

different world.

It's a planet that astronomers

call a "gas giant."

It's made almost

entirely from hydrogen,

the same material

that forms stars like the sun.

But beneath its cloudy surface,

a darkness looms.

Scientists believe a thick,

black liquid swirls below,

where intense pressures

and temperatures

transform hydrogen into

a strange new substance.

The secret of Jupiter's

giant magnetic field

may lie within this abyss.

Scientists in Edinburgh

are conducting

a remarkable experiment

to find out.

So, we call Jupiter

a gas giant,

but beneath the clouds

of Jupiter,

- the planet's not really
- made of gas.

It's made of something

much, much stranger.

Stewart McWilliams

is investigating the mystery

of what lies

below Jupiter's clouds.

Scientists know that Jupiter

is 90% hydrogen.

- Let's go.
- Things work fast

when they work here.

This equipment

can recreate some of the

incredibly high pressures

found inside Jupiter,

to find out

what happens to a gas

under the extreme conditions

deep inside the planet.


In the bottom of the ocean,

the pressure from all the water

that's on top of you

is about a thousand times

earth's atmospheric pressure.

And in the center of the earth,

it's about a million times.

But in the center of Jupiter,

it's almost a billion times

- the pressure of earth's
- atmosphere.

Stewart is going to expose a gas

more commonly found on earth

to the pressures found

deep within Jupiter.

He uses oxygen because

it's easier to control

in the lab,

yet reacts to pressure

in the same way as hydrogen.

Oxygen is

very similar to hydrogen,

- and so, they have
- similar properties

when you put them under pressure

inside a planet.

At low pressures, light can

easily pass through the sample.

If I put my hand

behind the sample,

the light goes away.

So, we're seeing light, now,

coming through oxygen,

and we're able to see

right through it.

And of course, oxygen,

like hydrogen,

when you squeeze on it,

it starts to change.

Stewart begins

to squeeze the gas.

Under extreme pressures,

the structure

of oxygen transforms.

-61, 62, 63.

-There it goes.

The oxygen has now

just turned solid,

and crystals are starting

to form in the system.

The oxygen becomes opaque.

It's beginning to change

its structure.

We're starting to
- see, the oxygen's beginning

to turn a little bit darker

and a little more orange,

and there it goes.

We've turned, now,

our oxygen sample

into a totally black

substance here.

- We were trying to shine
- light through it,

and it's being totally

absorbed inside the oxygen.

This black substance is created

simply by putting

an ordinary gas

under extreme pressure.

Stewart believes his experiments

prove that the pressure

within Jupiter

transforms hydrogen gas

into a new, different state.

- But this isn't enough
- to explain

Jupiter's enormous

magnetic field.

An even stranger force

must be at work.

Deeper inside the planet,

the conditions intensify.

Beneath the dark hydrogen,

scientists think there's

an even more bizarre layer...

An ocean of liquid,

metallic hydrogen,

an exotic state of hydrogen

that doesn't exist on earth.

12,000 miles deep, this metallic

ocean transforms the planet

into an enormous dynamo.

As it spins, it creates

a magnetic field

that extends nearly

4 million miles around Jupiter,

the biggest planetary structure

in the solar system.

Scientists now believe

metallic hydrogen

powers Jupiter's magnetic field.

But in the lab,

it's proving difficult to make.


People everywhere are racing

to create metallic hydrogen.

And over the years, we think

we've seen metallic hydrogen,

fleetingly, in a laboratory,

but we can't reproduce

these claims.

Jupiter seems able to create

new forms of hydrogen,

but it defies human attempts

to recreate it in the lab.


The only possible explanation

for that magnetic field

is the existence

of a metallic state of hydrogen

deep within Jupiter.

And so, it's really...

Experiments are trying

to catch up to nature.

The pressure inside Jupiter

is unrivaled

by the other planets

in our solar system.

Only the sun creates

a greater force.

Jupiter is so big,

so massive that,

we know, as you descend

into the interior of Jupiter,

you will reach pressures

where an element like hydrogen

doesn't just liquify.

It actually begins to behave

like a metal.

Now, the reason

a metal is shiny is that,

metal atoms

actually share electrons.

And with the hydrogen

compressed so close together,

the same thing happens,

and you get metallic hydrogen.

This metallic hydrogen

is something

that is very difficult to make.

But because Jupiter

is so powerful, it's so cool,

and it has such awesome gravity,

it can create metallic hydrogen.

Jupiter's magnetic field

reaches out deep into space.

When tiny charged particles

come into contact with it,

they produce radio waves

that telescopes

can detect on earth.

Scientists observing Jupiter

in ultraviolet light

- can see
- an extraordinary phenomena

caused by the magnetic field...

Huge auroras,

the brightest and biggest

in the solar system.

The auroras here on earth,

- our northern
- and Southern lights,

are caused by the interaction

of our magnetic field

with particles from the sun.

Well, Jupiter's magnetic field

is so extreme,

it actually generates auroras

all by itself.

These great, glowing masses

of particles hitting

the upper atmosphere

- due to
- the magnetic field,

but like everything on Jupiter,

they're supersized.

But the unparalleled

brightness of Jupiter's auroras

can't be explained

by its magnetic field alone.

Now, scientists

around the world

are investigating how the

auroras have become so powerful.

I've got to step back,
- actually,

'cause I can feel the heat

so intensely here.

What awesome power

is fueling Jupiter's auroras?

Jupiter behaves

more like a star

than an ordinary planet,

like earth.

It's made from the same stuff

as the sun,

and supercharged auroras suggest

that extremely powerful

radiation surrounds Jupiter.

This makes getting near

to the planet very difficult.

Trying to get

anywhere close to Jupiter

- is really,
- really hard

of the magnetic field.

So, when you send a spacecraft,

you understand it's not gonna

live for very long.

We've not been to Jupiter

that many times,

which is one reason NASA's

Juno mission is so exciting.

Juno has been sent

right into the heart

of Jupiter's auroras

to discover the secrets

behind the radiation

that causes them.

Launched in 2011, and costing

more than $1 billion,

Juno travels at more than

124,000 miles per hour,

covering over

1.5 billion miles

on its 5-year-journey

to Jupiter.

This is NASA's jet propulsion

laboratory in California.

It's the nerve center

for the Juno mission.

Our first science pass

- with all
- the instruments on.

Everybody's healthy.

- The data's
- looking amazing.

All the scientists

are incredibly excited.

Heidi Becker is studying

the radiation environment

around Jupiter using Juno.

When Juno went through
- the really nasty

radiation environment

for the first time,

it's kind of an

edge-of-your-seat-type moment.

Heidi measures the strength

of radiation around Jupiter

by looking at

photographs of stars

taken by the Juno spacecraft.

This is a regular,

radiation-free image

collected by Juno's

star tracker.

The stars appear

like points of light,

like you're used to when you

look up at the stars at night.

The stars are constant points

of light in the photograph,

but when radiation particles

hit the camera,

they appear, suddenly,

as additional white spots

and streaks of light.

So, each of these frames

is another level of radiation.

- And all of these
- squiggles and holes

that are being added

to this star field,

that's the radiation signature.

These are
- the radiation particles

that create Jupiter's auroras.

The particles are kind of like

machine-gun fire,

creating bullet holes

in an image.

And so, we can count

those individual bullet holes,

- and that's what
- helps me understand

the radiation environment.

So, one person's noise is

another person's music or data.

This data from Juno

allows scientists

to map the planet's radiation.

The radiation fields

of Jupiter are so intense,

we know they're going to

eventually fry our spacecraft.

Juno has on the order

of about a 2-year lifetime.

We understand that.

This intense radiation

lights up Jupiter's auroras,

- but where does it
- come from?

What's feeding Jupiter's

magnetic field with radiation?

Scientists looking for evidence

have spotted clues

in a mysterious bright spot

tracing a path

across the lights.

They now think that Io,

one of the 67 moons

that orbit Jupiter,

holds the key

to the planet's auroras.

There's this very intense

magnetic interaction

between Jupiter and its moons,

and you can actually see this

in the Aurora.

And you see a glowing spot

moving around in the auroras.

- And one of the most
- dramatic ones,

the most dramatic footprints

to see, is that of Io.

Io orbits

at 217,000 miles from Jupiter,

held in place by the planet's

massive gravity.

It's nothing like the moon

that orbits earth.

When we sent

our first spacecraft,

we saw, amazingly,

volcanoes going off.

Could these remote volcanoes

be the source of Jupiter's

supercharged auroras?

Scientists at

Syracuse university in New York

are investigating

if volcanoes on Io

are the cause of

Jupiter's magnificent auroras

by making their own volcano.

I've poured lava

over a thousand times,

than a lot of volcanologists.

Professor Bob Wysocki

runs the lava project.

He uses his homemade

furnace to replicate

the geological conditions

on other worlds.

Tonight, he's gearing up

to investigate

how volcanic activity on one

of Jupiter's moons

might fuel the planet's

deadly radiation

and light up its auroras.

Bob heats basalt rock

until it melts.

We're gonna
- charge the furnace now,

- and this is, simply,
- just putting more material in

to melt overnight.

The furnace burns

at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

- It takes an immense amount
- of energy

to melt even a small amount

of rock.

- So, where does Io
- get the energy

to fuel its volcanoes?

It's all down to Io's immense

immense and malevolent neighbor,


The planet traps Io

in a gravitational tug-of-war

with other orbiting moons.

Inside Io, the relentless push

and pull from Jupiter

heats up the interior

to melting point,

creating smoldering currents

beneath the surface.

As the pressure builds,

the lava finally erupts

through the moon's crust.

It shoots scorching

fountains of lava

up to half-a-mile high

and floods the frozen surface

with molten rock.

-Okay, Jeff, you ready to go?


In Syracuse, Bob is ready

to pour the lava.

We are just that one step below

what comes out of a volcano

and making and replicating

what happens in nature.

Well, we're doing
- an experiment today

to try to better understand

what happens

when ice meets lava.

Geologist Jeff Karson

is joining Bob

to see what happens

when volcanoes erupt on Io.

Io is extremely cold.

Its surface is made from sulfur

dioxide that is frozen solid.

Bob monitors the furnace,

while Jeff examines

how lava interacts with the ice.

The physics that govern

the way the lava flows form,

the way they cool,

the shapes they take on,

these are all the same

on other planetary objects,

but the same basic

physics applies.

Scientists believe

that the hot lava

pouring out of Io's volcanoes

onto its icy surface

has a direct effect

on Jupiter's radiation.

Moving onto the ice,

- a bunch of bubbles
- are starting to form.

You see a completely

different style

of behavior of the lava here.

I've got to step back, actually,

'cause I can feel the heat

so intensely here.

But those bubbles are forming

because water vapor

is being produced,

boiling the water in the ice.

- The vapor is escaping
- through the lava

and blowing these

beautiful bubbles.

It's a really good analog

for what could be happening

on other planetary objects,

like on Io.

The hot lava

causes the frozen ice

to instantly vaporize

into clouds of steam.

On a place like Io,

it would be sulfur

that's being vaporized,

and sulfur dioxide

making bubbles

and being released

into the atmosphere.

Scientists now think

that vaporized sulfur dioxide

is the key ingredient

to explain Jupiter's

extraordinary auroras.

Io's volcanoes vaporize

the toxic sulfur dioxide.

They blast it into

a nearly 50-mile umbrella plume.

One ton every second flies

into orbit around Jupiter.

The sulfur dioxide supercharges

the deadly radiation belt

around the planet

with a lethal particle storm.

Jupiter's magnetic field

then captures

the sulfur dioxide particles

and accelerates them

to the poles of the planet

at almost the speed of light.

They strike Jupiter's atmosphere

and create the spectacular

Aurora patterns,

over 100 times

more energetic

than the northern lights

on earth.

These volcanoes, instead

of just throwing material

a few tens of thousands

of feet into the air,

will throw material hundreds

of miles out into space.

These eruptions help generate

a lethal radiation

engulfing the whole planet.

This makes Jupiter

the most hostile place

in the solar system,

besides the sun.

But it's not just radiation

that makes Jupiter so extreme.

Deadly storms rage

on the surface.

Today, scientists are seeing

unimaginable weather systems,

enormously more powerful

than even the most

terrifying hurricanes on earth.

The weather on

Jupiter is pretty darn extreme.

There are these belts

that have winds

- that are zooming around
- very quickly,

- and then the other direction
- in the other.

Among all the swirling bands,

there's an enigma,

one feature that

doesn't seem to change...

Jupiter's famous

great red spot.

The great red spot

is the longest running storm

so, any image of Jupiter

that you see,

you see the cloud bands,

but then you see

this big red spot.

And it's persisted

for at least 180 years,

perhaps 300 or 400 years,

since humans have been able

to observe it.

Jupiter's weather is unlike

anything on a planet like earth.

What makes its storms

so colossal and violent?

Jupiter... more than 1,000 times

larger than the earth.

It's the biggest

and baddest planet

in the solar system.

It's so deadly, it seems

to have more in common

with the sun

than a planet like earth.

Jupiter has single storms larger

than its neighboring planets.

They rage for centuries

and create

its unmistakable appearance.

- If you were to go to Jupiter,
- you'd be in for

some very serious weather.

- But hey, maybe the kitesurfing
- would be good,

or the parachuting,

because you have to deal with

some serious winds

and some serious storms.

The great red spot

is this gigantic swirling storm

that has lasted

for hundreds of years.

You know, storms on earth

don't last that long.

Jupiter's great red

spot is one of the biggest

and oldest storms

in the solar system.

The mystery is,

what keeps it spinning?

Scientists at UCLA's Spinlab

in California

are trying to understand

Jupiter's extreme weather.

It would be impossible for us

to get to Jupiter and survive,

- so we have the next best thing.
- Here at Spinlab,

we do simulations

of Jupiter in the lab.

Juan Lora has a surprising tool

to understand Jupiter's


A tank of water.

With this setup here,

we are simulating a planetary

atmosphere in the lab.

- I know it doesn't look much
- like a planet,

but imagine just looking down

at the center of the table,

and that represents the polar

region of the planet.

The table will spin.

So, as you head out

to the edges of the table,

that represents lower latitudes

on the planet.

Jupiter is the fastest
- spinning planet

in the solar system.

A day on Jupiter

lasts only 10 hours.

The fluid in the table
- is now spinning

- like a planetary atmosphere
- would be.

- So, now, we're gonna
- add some dye,

and let's see what happens.

The colored fluids represent

different cloud systems.

- This experiment
- should reveal clues

about how they interact.

Adding any sort of

turbulence to a rotating fluid

will create some

interesting dynamics.

Juan stirs the water

to create turbulence.

Turbulence occurs

in Jupiter's atmosphere

when gasses of different

temperatures and speeds

come together.

- Once you get turbulence,
- and you disturb a fluid

that is rotating quickly,

like this tank and like Jupiter,

then you get these vortices.

And the vortices

are very stable,

and they like to interact

with each other sometimes.

This is like the red spot.

As soon as it was formed,

it is able to be maintained

by the rotation of Jupiter.

Jupiter's rotation

energizes the great red spot

and keeps it spinning.

But how did it get so large

in the first place?

The great red spot

is larger than whole planets.

Winds whip around at over 400

miles per hour to form a cyclone

that rises nearly 5 miles

above the clouds.

The striking red color

is believed to be the gas

reacting with the sun's rays.

Behind the sunburnt surface,

these twisting clouds

remain gray inside.

As smaller storms approach,

they are ruthlessly cannibalized

by the giant.

Their energy and spin

add to the great red spot's

size and power.

Is this superstorm

destined to rage forever?

Today, scientists can see

something strange is happening.

Jupiter's great red spot

- has been changing
- over the past 20 years.

So, here, an image taken

in 1995,

- where you can see that
- the great red spot

is quite large

and oval-shaped.

If you compare this image

to one taken in 2009,

the spot has become

more circular,

and it's also smaller in size.

And then, from 2014,

shows, again,

a further shrinkage of the spot.

The great red spot feeds

on other storms to survive.

It consumes them,

absorbing their energy

to keep spinning.

And if it's not fed,

it'll starve.

It's possible that,

in the past 20 years,

fewer of those vortices

have come into contact

with the great red spot.

Scientists also think

that some smaller storms

could actually damage

the great red spot.

Another possibility

is that it's eating,

if you will, vortices that are

spinning more slowly

than it is spinning,

and therefore, there's

a net loss of spin.

Storms that move slower or spin

in the opposite direction

could be putting the brakes

on the great red spot.

Its extraordinary longevity

could simply be

an exceptional streak of luck

that's only now running out.

- The fact that it's changing,
- and so quickly,

- and so dramatically,
- after being stable

for so long,

does suggest that, maybe,

something is taking place.

Maybe it will shrink

till the point we can't see it.

We don't know.

We have to keep watching.

Only time will tell

if Jupiter's most famous feature

will survive

another 100 years.

- The extreme physics
- on Jupiter

creates unparalleled weather

systems visible from space,

and scientists are just

beginning to understand

the conditions inside

the planet's clouds.

What they are finding

is extraordinary.

One of the big surprises

- when we got to Jupiter
- with a spacecraft,

was to see that there was

lightning on the dark side.

These images

taken by NASA spacecraft

are evidence of lightning

strikes in Jupiter's atmosphere.

They could trigger an

astonishing chemical reaction

deep inside Jupiter's

colorful clouds.

A thick fog of gas

surrounds Jupiter.

Friction in the clouds generates

super bolts of lightning.

These strikes are many times

more powerful

than lightning on earth.

62 miles

beneath the surface,

the clouds harbor methane,

as well as hydrogen.

When the superheated

electric shock

rips through the atmosphere,

the conditions are perfect

for an extraordinary

chemical reaction

unlike anything else

in the solar system.

- lightning bolts are stronger

than anything

we've witnessed on earth,

and the resulting

chemical reaction

unleashes a shower

of unimaginable riches.

The lightning transforms

the elements into diamonds.

Jupiter keeps its bling

on the inside,

because it may be

raining diamonds.

Now, think about this.

Jupiter has incredibly

strong winds,

and diamonds are really hard.

So, talk about a hail storm.

Scientists at Cardiff university

are trying to understand

how diamonds might be created

out of thin air on Jupiter.

Professor Oliver Williams

simulates Jupiter's

lightning-charged atmosphere

in the lab.

I'm using an airtight chamber

that I've sucked all the air out

to make a vacuum.

I'm gonna flow in hydrogen

and methane gas.

So, I'm flowing in 99% hydrogen

and 1% methane,

and this is like

the atmosphere of Jupiter.

But the experiment

really begins when Oliver adds

the final ingredient...


I'm gonna break this gas down

using high-power microwaves.

This is very like lightning,

where the high electric field

is breaking down the air

- and making these
- lightning bolts.


like lightning on Jupiter,

break down hydrogen

and methane gas.

It glows purple

as the atoms break apart.

So, diamond is fundamentally

made out of carbon.

Methane is actually carbon

with four hydrogen atoms,

and we're able to strip

these hydrogen away.

The microwaves release

carbon atoms from methane gas.

The atoms join together

to form a diamond.

Inside this chamber,

a slice of diamond literally

grows out of thin air.

So, what we've done is,

we've broken down these gasses

- that you do see
- in places like Jupiter.

- And from this chemistry,
- we've grown a crystalline form

of carbon,

which is diamond.

Experiments like this

suggest diamonds form like hail

in Jupiter's

lightning storms.

But something even

more extraordinary happens

as they fall.

As the diamonds are zapped

into existence,

they begin to descend

through the atmosphere

as diamond hail stones.

They plummet thousands of miles

through Jupiter's atmosphere,

towards the core,

racing into higher and higher

pressures and temperatures.

When they hit

14,400 degrees,

they melt, creating a shower

of liquid diamond raindrops.

But what comes next

is an even more bizarre

theoretical possibility.

Diamond rain could lead

to a sparkling diamond ocean

far below.

Jupiter's world may be

stranger than science fiction.

By borrowing

Jupiter's technique,

it's possible to make

any size of diamond.

I've been able to grow

a very thin layer of diamond,

- and this is over
- quite a large area.

This is 2 inches.

It's only a few hundred

nanometers thick,

- but if we grow for longer,
- we're able to grow

much more diamond,

and much thicker.

Diamonds we find on earth

are millions of years old.

But by mimicking

Jupiter's atmosphere,

they can appear

out of thin air.

- The extreme physics
- on Jupiter

creates weather totally unlike

anything on earth.

The tremendous forces

forge a unique world

in our solar system.

In fact, Jupiter behaves

more like a star

than a mere planet.

Could Jupiter actually be

the sun's secret twin?

Jupiter is a planet

of extremes...

Moons larger than

the planet Mercury,

radiation stronger than

anywhere else but the sun.

It dwarfs every other planet

in the solar system.

So, was Jupiter meant

to be a star?

Just as the sun is made

primarily of hydrogen,

so is Jupiter.

And so, it looks like a star,

- only it's one
- that's not burning.

Jupiter is really massive,

so, that's kind of unusual

in the solar system,

is to have a planet

made of hydrogen.

Scientists are beginning

to understand how Jupiter formed

by investigating what happened

in the early solar system.

They're hunting for clues

by observing the birth

of other distant stars.

Deep in the deserts

of California

sits the Owens valley

radio observatory.

These dishes make up

the Carma Radio Telescope array.

This location

is absolutely gorgeous.

Astronomer John Tobin scans

the skies for newborn stars.

Rather than building one

really big radio telescope,

which is very difficult to do,

they built a lot

of small dishes.

- Then, they linked
- them together.

- And the further apart
- you move them,

the higher resolution you get,

which means it acts

like a bigger telescope,

and you can see

finer detail.

John is looking

for protostars,

brand-new stars

that are only just condensing

from a vast cloud

of gas and debris.

A protostar is a newborn star,

so it's still

in the process of forming

and building up its mass.

And in interstellar space,

- there are clouds
- of gas and dust,

and at the center,

a protostar will be born.

Jupiter was formed from

the same clouds of hydrogen gas

and dust that form stars.

Could it have formed

like a protostar?

John is finding evidence

thousands of light-years away

that explains

how star systems form.

This image is showing you

that the black and the contours,

they're the intensity

of the radiation

that we're detecting

from this protostar.

There's not just

one protostar,

but there's two protostars.

So, these two peaks

that you see here and here,

those are the two

forming protostars.

It's a solar system

very different from our own.

And my first reaction

to this was, "wow."

I couldn't believe the detail

that we were seeing

towards this object.

Because previously, we knew

there was one thing there,

but then we found out

that there looks like

there's at least two objects

around this protostar.

And so, that was unexpected.

- We didn't know that
- we were gonna find that,

and so that was

a surprise to us.

Could Jupiter have once stood

toe-to-toe with the sun?

From the outside, each young

star system looks alike,

starting life as a spiraling

disc of dust and gas.

But what evolves inside

can be very different.

Deep in the middle of the disc,

turbulence can cause

the central cloud

to split into two

and collapse into not one,

but two shining stars

in the center.

The stars orbit each other

in a hypnotic dance.

Born from the same cloud,

this solar system

has twin stars.

Any dust and gas left over

will go on to form planets.

In our solar system, the sun

is the only shining star.

But another massive ball

of hydrogen

quietly orbits from afar...


Could this planet be the sun's

double that didn't ignite?

Scientists believe

that solar systems

with twin suns are very common.

Well, since that first result

using these telescopes here,

we've been carrying out a much

larger survey of protostars,

in order to see just how many

star systems form with two

or three or more stars.

- And we're finding that
- a surprisingly large number

of star systems form

with more than one star.

John wants to try to

discover the precise conditions

that create these binary

solar systems,

where two stars

orbit each other.

We've been putting together

a compendium of images

of young star systems

in order to find out

- which ones are binary
- or multiple.

So, this one is

a single-star system.

This one here is a double.

As many as half of all stars

in the universe

have a partner star,

both formed from a single

disc of gas and dust

that breaks apart.

- The system we were looking at
- is located right here,

where the clouds of gas are kind

of stretched out and extended.

- There might be
- multiple centers of collapse

that can lead to the formation

of more than one star.

A cloud of gas and dust

that is stretched out

will likely collapse

into multiple stars

very close to each other.

John thinks our solar system

must have formed

in a different way.

So, we think

our own solar system

may have looked something

more like this one,

where you have just one star

surrounded by its disc,

and then the disc itself

is lower mass

and is not going to fragment

into more than one star.

Scientists believe

the type of hydrogen cloud

that gave rise

to our solar system

cut short Jupiter's quest

to become a star.

In its race to grow up,

the sun got a head start,

sucking up 99% of all the matter

in the young solar system.

When it reached

27 million degrees, it ignited.

Meanwhile, the same cloud

was condensing into Jupiter,

rapidly snowballing

to collect two-thirds

of all the matter left over.

- But there was not enough
- matter left

for Jupiter to get big enough

to ignite,

so it became a gas giant

more than double the mass

of all other planets

in the solar system combined.

No normal planet,

Jupiter is the star's

younger sibling.

It would make sense to think,

"well, where is

the sun's binary partner?"

And immediately,

the mind goes to Jupiter.

If Jupiter
- had gathered enough mass

to ignite into a star,

it's unlikely that the earth

would have ever been formed.

The solar system would be

a very different place

with twin suns.

Instead, Jupiter became

the most extraordinary world

in the solar system.

Everything about Jupiter

is extreme.

Its mass is more than

300 times that of earth.

You could fit 1,000 earths

inside this one planet.

- It has a magnetic
- field so intense,

- it would kill you
- with the radiation.

Its winds blow

at over 400 miles an hour.

I mean, can you imagine

a more extreme place?

To me, Jupiter is perhaps

the most fascinating object

in our solar system.

It's certainly

the most alien.

It is an enormous,

strange ball of swirling gas

surrounded by its own

miniature planetary system.

Formed at the very beginning

of the solar system

from the same material

as the sun,

Jupiter is a mysterious,

bizarre, and unique world

that we're only just beginning

to understand.