Emma Strang, of Cashmere High School, asks :-

If we fired a high-speed rocket at Jupiter would the rocket be able to enter the planet and travel right through it?

Frank Andrews, an astronomer at Wellington's Carter Observatory, responded.

Although Jupiter is a gas giant planet 143,884km in diameter, there are a number of reasons why this is impossible.

As you travel down through the atmosphere the pressure rises steadily and before your rocket could get even 100km below the top of the main cloud layer it would be crushed.

The temperature also increases with depth, so that the rocket would melt and eventually be vapourised. No known substance could withstand the temperatures and pressures in this planet's atmosphere. The atmosphere probably grades into an ocean of liquid molecular hydrogen at a depth of about 1,000km.

At a distance of about 46,000km from the centre, it is now thought that the dense liquid molecular hydrogen suddenly changes into liquid metallic hydrogen. No space probe could reach this region let alone traverse it. At the transition region from the molecular to the metallic phase of hydrogen the pressure is 3,000,000 times that of the earth's atmosphere at sea level. The temperature is about 11,000 degrees Celsius.

At the very centre of Jupiter there is a relatively small core, probably about the size of the Earth made up of iron and rocky, silicate materials at a temperature of about 20,000 degrees Celsius.

As you will now see, despite being a gas giant planet, Jupiter's interior could not be reached by any space probe.