Between 03:00 and 05:00 in the BBC's radio program Giant hurricanes at Jupiter’s poles, BBC's science correspondent Jonathan Amos summarizes the result of higher than expected multipole intensity of Juno's magnetic field measurements during close passes of the planet, and agrees with the paraphrasing of the potential source of the planet's magnetic field as:

...'rivers of metallic hydrogen' in the atmosphere of Jupiter...

Question: How close of an analogy is this, given what was actually measured? And for that matter, could someone describe what was actually measured? Was it a localized "blip" or does this really show up in the multipole expansion of Jupiter's entire planetary field?

Additional information:

There is a bit more in the BBC's Juno peers below Jupiter's clouds (written by Jonathan Amos), and probably much more in the articles just published in Science Jupiter’s interior and deep atmosphere: The initial pole-to-pole passes with the Juno spacecraft and also Jupiter’s magnetosphere and aurorae observed by the Juno spacecraft during its first polar orbits.

below: From here.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Surely this is an astronomy question and might get more response on the astronomy stack exchange $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2018 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ @SteveLinton Sometimes it's a tough call, but not this time. This is a question specifically about the "higher than expected multipole intensity of Juno's magnetic field measurements during close passes of the planet. Juno is a spacecraft which is performing Space Exploration, the name of this site. There are currently 52 other questions here about Juno. I'm not asking what Jupiter is like, I'm asking for a better characterization of the measurements performed by the spacecraft. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 11, 2018 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveLinton I also re-read and then edited the question to make sure this was clear as part of the decision to add the bounty. fyi there are only 3 questions about Juno in Astronomy SE, and only 2 have answers; until about 10 hours ago it was only 1! (1, 2, 3) ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 11, 2018 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ What is your actual question? $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Aug 17, 2018 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I really dont want to dig up the math to support that which is why I didnt answer, I thought it was known though. Anyways, it was within the last decade discovered that at incredibly high pressures, hydrogen transfers from a plasma state to state where it takes on metallic like properties. In this state it becomes very conductive and capable of creating magnetic fields. It is also fluid hence where the statement of "rivers of metallic hydrogen" comes from. Though it would be more akin to rivers of magma in the Earth's core than a river of water. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Aug 17, 2018 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


Metallic hydrogen is a phase of hydrogen in which it behaves like an electrical conductor. This phase was predicted in 1935 on theoretical grounds by Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington.[2]

At high pressure and temperatures, metallic hydrogen might exist as a liquid rather than a solid, and researchers think it is present in large quantities in the hot and gravitationally compressed interiors of Jupiter, Saturn, and in some extrasolar planets.[3]

In October 2016, there were claims that metallic hydrogen had been observed in the laboratory at a pressure of around 495 gigapascals (4,950,000 bar; 4,890,000 atm; 71,800,000 psi).[4] In January 2017, scientists at Harvard University reported the first creation of metallic hydrogen in a laboratory, using a diamond anvil cell.[5] Several researchers in the field doubt this claim.[6][7] Some observations consistent with metallic behavior had been reported earlier, such as the observation of new phases of solid hydrogen under static conditions[8][9] and, in dense liquid deuterium, electrical insulator-to-conductor transitions associated with an increase in optical reflectivity.[10]

So yeah liquid metal hydrogen, hence the "rivers" though I think the science is still out on if Jupiter actually has any substantial state transitions versus a continuous gradient of gas to liquids to denser liquids then maybe its core. The layers seems to be distinguished by how they cause phase changes in significantly present compounds or elements.

wiki of metallic hydrogen

  • $\begingroup$ So blindingly bright and hot liquid hydrogen metal conducting super charged gas giant lightning? Fun stuff haha. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2018 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ I dont actually know if it emits light, I assume it does since hydrogen plasma does and the fact that it exists at temperature and pressures where lots of other things are emitting light but then that is still just an assumption. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Aug 20, 2018 at 14:42

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