Special Articles

Interiors of Giant Planets Inside and Outside the Solar System

Science  01 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5437, pp. 72-77
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5437.72

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Abstract

An understanding of the structure and composition of the giant planets is rapidly evolving because of (i) high-pressure experiments with the ability to study metallic hydrogen and define the properties of its equation of state and (ii) spectroscopic and in situ measurements made by telescopes and satellites that allow an accurate determination of the chemical composition of the deep atmospheres of the giant planets. However, the total amount of heavy elements that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune contain remains poorly constrained. The discovery of extrasolar giant planets with masses ranging from that of Saturn to a few times the mass of Jupiter opens up new possibilities for understanding planet composition and formation. Evolutionary models predict that gaseous extrasolar giant planets should have a variety of atmospheric temperatures and chemical compositions, but the radii are estimated to be close to that of Jupiter (between 0.9 and 1.7 Jupiter radii), provided that they contain mostly hydrogen and helium.

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