The planets that the solar device as illustrated by a NASA computer illustration. Orbits and also sizes are not displayed to scale.(Image credit: NASA)
A gas giant is a big planet composed largely of gases, such as hydrogen and helium, with a reasonably small rocky core. The gas giants of our solar system are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. This four huge planets, also called jovian planets after ~ Jupiter, reside in the outer component of the solar device past the orbits of Mars and the asteroid belt. Jupiter and also Saturn space substantially larger than Uranus and also Neptune, and each pair that planets has actually a somewhat different composition.

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Although there are just four huge planets in ours solar system, astronomers have uncovered thousands exterior of it, specifically using NASA\"s Kepler Telescope. These exoplanets (as they are called) space being check to learn more about exactly how our solar system concerned be.

Basic facts

Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. It has a radius virtually 11 time the size of Earth. It has actually 50 recognized moons and also 17 wait to be confirmed, according to NASA. The earth is mostly made of hydrogen and helium bordering a thick core the rocks and also ice, with many of its mass likely made up of liquid metallic hydrogen, which creates a large magnetic field. Jupiter is visible through the naked eye and also was known by the ancients. The atmosphere is composed mostly the hydrogen, helium, ammonia and also methane.

Saturn is about nine times Earth\"s radius and is defined by large rings; just how they developed is unknown. It has actually 53 well-known moons and also nine an ext awaiting confirmation, follow to NASA. Choose Jupiter, that is mostly made up of hydrogen and helium that surround a thick core and also was additionally tracked by ancient cultures. Its environment is comparable to Jupiter\"s.

Uranus has a radius around four times the of Earth\"s. That is the just planet tilted ~ above its side, and it also rotates backward family member to every planet but Venus, implying a large collision disrupted it lengthy ago. The planet has actually 27 moons, and also its atmosphere is made up of hydrogen, helium and also methane, according to NASA. That was found by william Herschel in 1781.

Neptune also has a radius about four times the of Earth\"s. Favor Uranus, its environment is mostly comprised of hydrogen, helium and methane. It has actually 13 shown moons and second one awaiting confirmation, follow to NASA. The was found by several world in 1846.

Super-Earths: scientists have uncovered a multitude that \"super-Earths\" (planets in between the size of Earth and also Neptune) in various other solar systems. There room no known super-Earths in our own solar system, although some researchers speculate there may be a \"Planet Nine\" lurking in the external reaches of our solar system. Researchers are researching this classification of planets to find out whether super-Earths are much more like little giant planets or large terrestrial planets.

Formation and similarities

Astronomers think the giants an initial formed together rocky and icy planets similar to terrestrial planets. However, the size of the cores enabled these planets (particularly Jupiter and also Saturn) come grab hydrogen and helium out of the gas cloud native which the sun was condensing, prior to the sunlight formed and blew most of the gas away.

Since Uranus and Neptune room smaller and have bigger orbits, it was harder because that them to collection hydrogen and also helium as properly as Jupiter and also Saturn. This likely describes why they are smaller sized than those two planets. ~ above a portion basis, their atmospheres are more \"polluted\" v heavier aspects such as methane and ammonia because they space so lot smaller.

Scientists have discovered thousands the exoplanets. Numerous of these happen to it is in \"hot Jupiters,\" or substantial gas giants the are incredibly close to their parental stars. (Rocky human beings are much more abundant in the universe, according to estimates from Kepler.) researchers speculate that huge planets may have actually moved ago and soon in your orbits prior to settling into their current configuration. But how much they moved is quiet a topic of debate.

There room dozens that moons approximately the giant planets. Many formed in ~ the same time together their parental planets, i m sorry is comprise if the planets turn in the very same direction as the world close to the equator (such as the huge Jovian moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and also Callisto.) yet there room exceptions.

One moon that Neptune, Triton, orbits the earth opposite come the direction Neptune spins — implying that Triton was captured, possibly by Neptune\"s once larger atmosphere, as it passed by. And also there are numerous tiny moons in the solar system that rotate far from the equator of their planets, implying that they were also snagged by the immense gravitational pull.

Current research

Jupiter: NASA\"s Juno aramuseum.orgcraft landed on the planet in 2016 and has already made several discoveries. It learned the planet\"s rings, i m sorry is daunting to attain since lock are far subtler than Saturn\"s. Juno uncovered that the particles influencing the auroras of Jupiter are different than those on Earth. It additionally revealed insights around the atmosphere, such together finding eye emanating indigenous high-altitude clouds. Meanwhile, researchers using the Hubble Telescope have actually made in-depth studies of Jupiter\"s an excellent Red Spot, watching it shrink and intensify in color.

Saturn: The Cassini aramuseum.orgcraft sheathe up an ext than a dozen year of observation at Saturn in 2017. But the science Cassini perform is still an extremely much in progress, as researchers analyze job-related from its many years at Saturn. In its latter months, the mission examined Saturn\"s gravity and also magnetic fields, looked in ~ the ring from a different angle 보다 before, and also plunged right into the environment deliberately (a relocate that will certainly reveal much more about the structure of the atmosphere.)

Uranus: The storms of Uranus room a constant target because that both experienced telescopes and also amateur astronomers, who monitor how they evolve and adjust over time. Researchers are likewise interested in learning about the structure of the rings, and what its atmosphere is make of. Uranus may also have numerous Trojan asteroids (asteroids in the same orbit together the planet); the very first was found in 2013.

Neptune: Storms top top Neptune are additionally a well-known observing target, and also in 2018 those monitorings again bore fruit; work-related from the Hubble Telescope verified that a long-standing storm is currently shrinking. The researchers noted the storm is dissipating differently than what your models expected, which mirrors that our understanding of Neptune\"s environment still needs refinement.

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Exoplanets: plenty of ground telescopes search for exoplanets. There are additionally several active objectives performing exoplanet research, consisting of Kepler, the Hubble Telescope and the Spitzer Telescope. A flurry of brand-new missions is additionally planned: the NASA Transiting Exoplanet inspection Satellite (TESS) in 2018, the NASA James Webb Telescope in 2020, the european Agency\"s PLAnetary Transits and also Oscillations of stars (PLATO) in 2026 and ESA\"s Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey mission (Ariel) in 2028.

Additional resources

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Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer because that who is one of the couple of Canadian journalists to report consistently on exploration. She is follow a Ph.D. Part-time in scientific researches (University of phibìc Dakota) after perfect an M.Sc. ( studies) in ~ the same institution. She likewise holds a bachelor of journalism level from Carleton University. As well as writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To check out her recent projects, monitor Elizabeth top top Twitter at