Gravity & Our Gas Giant Planets

In summary, the books suggest that there are solid/liquid cores within Jupiter. However, this is due to the extreme pressures and temperatures found there, which cannot occur without thermonuclear reactions.
  • #1
Why doesn't the immense gravity of Jupiter and the others turn the gases into solids? (More than just a tiny core, that is.) Does the "gas" at the surface act like a hard solid? About 10 years ago that comet, Shoemaker-Levy 9, entered Jupiter's atmosphere, broke up, and caused explosions on the surface. If the surface was just gas wouldn't it have gone through it until it hit liquid or solid? In a nutshell, I'm trying to imagine the physical nature of the surface.

Thanks in advance
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  • #2
Jupiter has no surface as such. Natrually, the gravitational force is lower the further out you go, so the pressure/density are lower. So there is a pressure/density gradient - the pressure/density get higher as you go in, eventually to the point where you can't distinguish between liquid and gas.
  • #3
Thank you, Russ, this helps me understand the planetary surface. I assume SL9 exploded at the surface because the speed of decent made the gas "feel" like a solid, and/or the atmospheric pressure came into play. I still wonder why the tremendous gravity doesn't force more of the liquid/gas into still more solid. I don't question why larger obects of the universe, such as stars, become solid because of the nuclear reactions.
  • #4
Hydrogen is tough to make solid, so very little is known about it. Anyway, consider that Jupiter's specific density is about 1.3 (times the density of water) while Earth's is 5.5. That implies a pretty shallow density gradient (you have to go pretty far in before it gets as dense as a liquid).
  • #5
As you descend into the atmosphere of Jupiter, you'll encounter the cloudtops at right around 1 atm (coincidence). The temperature there is way cold, about 160 K. Over the next 100 km or so, the temperature inceases at about 2 K/km but the pressure is building up as well. The atmosphere is mostly H2 and He, of course. As you go deeper and the pressure increases, this gas just gets denser and denser without ever becoming a liquid because it is above its critical temperature.

I don't have the depths available to me here, but as the pressure builds, the gas becomes much denser than water and, at even deeper, becomes a metal. Once again, it isn't really a liquid, gas or solid; just a supercritical fluid. A little hard to imagine. That big hunk of hydrogen metal is where Jupiter gets its immense magnetic field.

Near the center is a little Earth-sized silicate rocky core, but the "atmosphere" around it is a very hot, super high P metallic H2/He material. Not really a solid, but much denser than a liquid. The exact depths and compositions aren't really known because we don't know much about the behavior of hydrogen at those temperatures and, especially, pressures.
  • #6
If you look at a phase diagram, at high temperatures and pressures, the line between liquid and gas ends.
  • #7
If the pressure/density factor was great enough, then it would have triggered thermonuclear reactions rather than becoming solid, since the Gas giants are mostly made of 'H' and 'He' and i don't believe we can reach critical densities for these gases to become solid without triggering thermonuclear reactions...
  • #8
Has anybody worked out the mass density requirement four four-proton fusion ignition?
  • #9
H and He can't become solid inside a gas giant because they are above their critical temperature.
  • #10
travelling towards the center of the gas giants ull find the that gases are being squashed into dense liquid under tremendous pressure,,, ull also find very violent temperature fluctuations in the inner atmosphere...
  • #11
Ok, I was flipping through astronomy books at the public library today and came across some illustrations that showed a cutaway model of the various layers of Jupiter (and this was true for Saturn to a degree as well).

First drawn was a very thin atmoshpere, it gave the percent of gaseous He and H, CH4 (very small) and then trace gases. It then showed the next layer to be a a massive volume of liquid He and H, the next was a core of (solid) metallic H and then last was a core of "unknown" element.
What I can make from this discussion is that the bonding in question (whether it be metal-nonmetal/nonmetal-nonmetal/homonuclear I do not know) among the two (He, H) cannot occur due to temperatures at the specific depths being excessive, and instead pressures caused by gravity along with density allow He and H to exhibit liquid and solid state characteristics.
Is this correct?

If correct, why then do these popular science books indicate that there are solid/liquid cores within Jupiter? I would think that it is layman language since they are pop scie books, but seems very very misleading. I should find the name of the books and author/editors.

1. What is the role of gravity in the formation of gas giant planets?

Gravity plays a crucial role in the formation of gas giant planets. As a cloud of gas and dust begins to collapse under its own gravity, the center becomes more and more dense, causing the material around it to begin rotating. This rotation creates a centrifugal force that balances with the gravitational force, forming a disk of material around the center. Over time, this disk coalesces to form a gas giant planet.

2. How does the strength of gravity on gas giant planets compare to that on Earth?

The strength of gravity on gas giant planets varies depending on the planet's mass and size. For example, Jupiter, the largest gas giant in our solar system, has a surface gravity of 2.53 times that of Earth. However, Saturn, which is slightly smaller and less dense, has a surface gravity of only 0.91 times that of Earth. In general, gas giants have stronger gravitational forces than Earth due to their larger size and mass.

3. Can gas giant planets support life due to their strong gravitational forces?

There is currently no evidence to suggest that gas giant planets can support life as we know it. The strong gravitational forces on these planets make their atmospheres thick and turbulent, making it difficult for life to exist. Additionally, gas giants lack a solid surface and have extreme temperatures, making it an inhospitable environment for life to thrive.

4. How does the composition of gas giant planets differ from that of Earth?

Gas giant planets consist mainly of hydrogen and helium, with small amounts of other gases such as methane and ammonia. In contrast, Earth has a solid surface made up of rock and metal, with a relatively thin atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. The differences in composition are due to the different formation processes of gas giants and terrestrial planets.

5. How does the gravitational pull of gas giant planets affect their moons?

The gravitational pull of gas giant planets on their moons can cause tidal forces, creating tidal heating and affecting the moons' orbits. For example, Io, one of Jupiter's moons, experiences intense tidal heating due to its close proximity to the gas giant, causing it to have active volcanoes on its surface. The gravitational pull of gas giants can also cause their moons to have eccentric or irregular orbits.

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