Jupiter’s Moment of Inertia: A Possible Determination by JUNO

The moment of inertia of a giant planet reveals important information about the planet’s internal density structure and this information is not identical to that contained in the gravitational moments. The forthcoming Juno mission to Jupiter might determine Jupiter’s normalized moment of inertia NMoI=C/MR^2 by measuring Jupiter’s pole precession and the Lense-Thirring acceleration of the spacecraft (C is the axial moment of inertia, and M and R are Jupiter’s mass and mean radius, respectively). We investigate the possible range of NMoI values for Jupiter based on its measured gravitational field using a simple core/envelope model of the planet assuming that J_2 and J_4 are perfectly known and are equal to their measured values. The model suggests that for fixed values of J_2 and J_4 a range of NMOI values between 0.2629 and 0.2645 can be found. The Radau-Darwin relation gives a NMoI value that is larger than the model values by less than 1%. A low NMoI of ~ 0.236, inferred from a dynamical model (Ward & Canup, 2006, ApJ, 640, L91) is inconsistent with this range, but the range is model dependent. Although we conclude that the NMoI is tightly constrained by the gravity coefficients, a measurement of Jupiter’s NMoI to a few tenths of percent by Juno could provide an important constraint on Jupiter’s internal structure. We carry out a simplified assessment of the error involved in Juno’s possible determination of Jupiter’s NMoI.


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