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

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Although there are only four huge planets in ours solar system, astronomers have uncovered thousands external of it, an especially using NASA"s Kepler Telescope. These exoplanets (as they are called) are being check to learn much more about just how our solar system pertained to be.

Basic facts

Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. It has actually a radius virtually 11 times the size of Earth. It has actually 50 recognized moons and also 17 wait to it is in confirmed, according to NASA. The earth is mainly made the hydrogen and helium bordering a dense core the rocks and also ice, with many of its bulk likely comprised of liquid metallic hydrogen, which creates a substantial magnetic field. Jupiter is visible through the nude eye and also was known by the ancients. Its atmosphere is composed mostly of hydrogen, helium, ammonia and methane.

Saturn is around nine times Earth"s radius and also is characterized by huge rings; exactly how they developed is unknown. It has 53 known moons and nine an ext awaiting confirmation, follow to NASA. Like Jupiter, the is mostly made up of hydrogen and helium that surround a dense core and was likewise tracked by old cultures. Its environment is similar to Jupiter"s.

Uranus has a radius about four times that of Earth"s. It is the only planet tilted top top its side, and also it additionally rotates backward loved one to every planet yet Venus, implying a huge collision disrupted it lengthy ago. The planet has 27 moons, and its setting is made up of hydrogen, helium and also methane, according to NASA. That was discovered by wilhelm Herschel in 1781.

Neptune additionally has a radius around four times the of Earth"s. Favor Uranus, its atmosphere is mostly made up of hydrogen, helium and methane. It has actually 13 evidenced moons and an additional one awaiting confirmation, follow to NASA. The was found by several civilization in 1846.

Super-Earths: scientists have found a multitude of "super-Earths" (planets between the size of Earth and also Neptune) in other solar systems. There are no recognized super-Earths in our own solar system, although some researchers speculate there might be a "Planet Nine" lurking in the external reaches of our solar system. Researchers are studying this group of planets to discover whether super-Earths are much more like tiny giant planets or huge terrestrial planets.

Formation and also similarities

Astronomers think the giants an initial formed as rocky and icy planets comparable to terrestrial planets. However, the dimension of the cores allowed these planets (particularly Jupiter and Saturn) come grab hydrogen and helium out of the gas cloud from which the sunlight was condensing, before the sunlight formed and also blew most of the gas away.

Since Uranus and Neptune are smaller and also have bigger orbits, it to be harder because that them to collect hydrogen and helium as successfully as Jupiter and Saturn. This likely describes why lock are smaller than those two planets. ~ above a percent basis, their atmospheres are more "polluted" v heavier aspects such as methane and also ammonia because they room so much smaller.

Scientists have uncovered thousands that exoplanets. Many of these take place to it is in "hot Jupiters," or enormous gas giants that are very close to their parental stars. (Rocky civilizations are more abundant in the universe, according to approximates from Kepler.) researchers speculate that huge planets may have actually moved back and forth in their orbits before settling into their existing configuration. However how lot they moved is still a topic of debate.

There are dozens of moons roughly the giant planets. Countless formed in ~ the very same time as their parental planets, i beg your pardon is implied if the planets rotate in the very same direction together the world close to the equator (such as the substantial Jovian moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.) but there are exceptions.

One moon that Neptune, Triton, orbits the world opposite to the direction Neptune spins — implying the Triton to be captured, maybe by Neptune"s once larger atmosphere, together it pass by. And also there are numerous tiny moons in the solar device that rotate much from the equator of their planets, implying that they were also snagged by the immense gravitational pull.

Current research

Jupiter: NASA"s Juno smashville247.netcraft arrived on the planet in 2016 and also has already made several discoveries. It studied the planet"s rings, i m sorry is difficult to attain since lock are much subtler 보다 Saturn"s. Juno found that the particles affecting the auroras the Jupiter are various than those ~ above Earth. It likewise revealed insights around the atmosphere, such together finding eye emanating indigenous high-altitude clouds. Meanwhile, scientists using the Hubble Telescope have made in-depth studies that Jupiter"s good Red Spot, watching the shrink and also intensify in color.

Saturn: The Cassini smashville247.netcraft wrapped up more than a dozen year of monitoring at Saturn in 2017. Yet the science Cassini perform is still really much in progress, as researchers analyze job-related from its many years at Saturn. In its latter months, the mission check Saturn"s gravity and also magnetic fields, looked at the ring from a different angle than before, and also plunged into the setting deliberately (a relocate that will reveal more about the framework of the atmosphere.)

Uranus: The storms the Uranus are a constant target because that both skilled telescopes and amateur astronomers, who monitor just how they evolve and change over time. Researchers are likewise interested in learning about the framework of its rings, and also what its setting is do of. Uranus may likewise have several Trojan asteroids (asteroids in the exact same orbit as the planet); the an initial was discovered in 2013.

Neptune: Storms top top Neptune are likewise a popular observing target, and in 2018 those observations again bore fruit; work-related from the Hubble Telescope showed that a long-standing storm is currently shrinking. The researchers detailed the storm is dissipating differently than what their models expected, which shows that our understanding of Neptune"s setting still calls for refinement.

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

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Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer because that who is just one of the couple of Canadian journalists come report on regular basis on exploration. She is follow a Ph.D. Part-time in scientific researches (University of north Dakota) after perfect an M.Sc. ( studies) in ~ the exact same institution. She also holds a bachelor the journalism level from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches interactions at the university and also community university level. To watch her recent projects, monitor Elizabeth ~ above Twitter at