Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune form what are known as Jovian planets (Jupiter-like). Each system in this grouping exhibits similar non-solid yet gaseous characteristics to Jupiter.
Each solar system possesses rings, numerous moons, and significant magnetic fields; some even boast significant gaps where ring particles have gone missing from view.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and contains two and a half times as much mass than all the other planets combined. It is an enormous gaseous giant with an expansive atmosphere and an immense core filled with helium atoms. Furthermore, it features an extremely powerful magnetosphere as well as faint planetary rings around its periphery.
Jupiter emerged 4.5 billion years ago during the early days of our solar system. Due to its immense gravity, asteroids and comets were drawn toward it – some may have even hit Earth and delivered water onto its surface.
Jupiter’s gravity may be so strong that most comets escape its pull while only accreteing a small fraction, but its gravitational influence still permeates through to inner Solar System planets and beyond. Jupiter has an impactor belt which attracts comets and asteroids close to its orbital path.
The Great Red Spot of Jupiter has been brewing for some time, producing storms with colors ranging from brick red to light brown hues that are caused by sulfur and phosphorus gases in its clouds.
Jupiter features dark bands of clouds extending across long stretches, separated by jet streams created when it spins rapidly – once every 10 hours. These jet streams consist of gaseous ammonia which exists in its upper atmosphere layers.
Saturn shares many similarities with Jupiter when it comes to atmosphere composition: hydrogen dominates most of its atmosphere while helium only penetrates to deeper layers at depth. Deep within Saturn’s interior however, both hydrogen and helium combine with one another under intense pressure into liquid form, eventually turning into solids under immense pressure.
Differential rotation is a phenomenon in which different layers of atmospheric layers rotate at differing rates, thereby altering each planet’s mean rotation axis and producing what is known as differential rotation. Cylinders aligned with this mean rotation axis don’t start moving together until about 9,000 km (5,600 miles) beneath its surface where differences in pressure between helium and nitrogen layers become most apparent.
Researchers have proposed that similar mechanisms exist on Saturn; however, they have not been able to establish how layers of atmosphere connect up in order to form jet streams and belts on its surface.
Saturn is one of the gas giants and boasts an immense atmosphere composed primarily of hydrogen with trace amounts of helium, methane and ammonia – its winds can reach speeds of about 1,800 kilometers per hour! Saturn boasts some of the fastest winds in our Solar System!
Saturn features a dense core made up of metals such as iron and nickel surrounded by rock material, while within this core lies an extremely thin liquid hydrogen layer reminiscent of Jupiter’s, but much smaller in scale.
Saturn’s immense gravity has played a critical role in shaping our Solar System. Early in its history, its gravitational pull flung Neptune and Uranus out of their orbit violently before going on to destroy comets, asteroids, and moons that passed too close by Saturn.
Planet Mercury features an intricate, ringed orbit, as well as several moons – it is the second-largest planet in our Solar System and visible even to naked eye.
The rings system is comprised of billions of tiny ice particles covered with dust and rocks, varying in size from small grains to chunks as big as houses. Their surfaces reflect sunlight strongly; hence their brightness as seen from Earth-based telescopes.
Saturn stands out among other planets by virtue of its chaotic rotation. Cloud motions in its upper atmosphere reveal that its rotational period varies widely depending on latitude; for example, near its equatorial region it lasts approximately 10 hours while outer regions feature longer rotational times.
Saturn is distinguished by the presence of many natural satellites known as moons. While their sizes, shapes, and composition vary significantly, all may have been formed through impact craters created when comets or asteroids hit Saturn’s surface and caused impact craters to form on it.
At present, roughly 82 moons orbit Saturn; some travel around it within half an Earth day while others take four Earth years.
Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is an expansive world composed of ice and rock that was explored by the Huygens spacecraft, which discovered rivers and lakebeds on its surface as well as an atmosphere denser than Earth’s. Furthermore, Enceladus offers geological activity through geysers of water vapor and dust released into space from beneath its surface.
Uranus, named for the Greek god of the sky, is the seventh planet from our Sun. A gas giant planet, it boasts the third-highest mass among planets within our Solar System – also ranking fourth overall as part of Jovian Planets alongside Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune.
Uranus is commonly referred to as an “ice giant”, due to its composition of flowing icy materials above a solid core. The outer atmosphere contains hydrogen, helium, methane and the presence of methane gas; while inward layers contain water ammonia hydrogen sulfide which forms an ice cloud above the core.
Uranus’ surface features low temperatures and a thick atmosphere with winds ranging from 90-360 mph. At its highest elevations, Uranus can be frigid – its upper layer having an average temperature of -353 degrees Fahrenheit.
Uranus is easily visible to the unaided eye in the sky and easily visible during its equinox period, when it becomes a blue-green point of light with an iridescence reminiscent of its rings’ colors. This coloration can be attributed to methane gas absorption of red light, while remaining invisible during other parts of its orbital path.
Uranus has 27 known moons that orbit it; some, like Miranda, have become popular topics of fiction stories and television shows.
Uranus, like other planets in our Solar System, boasts its own ring system. Although faint and difficult to see, these rings contain dark particulate matter with diameters ranging from 10 meters up to several hundred kilometers – the particles range in size from ten meters up to several hundred kilometers!
Astronomers at Kuiper airborne observatory first discovered this ring system by studying an occultation by Uranus of a star, projected onto Earth’s sky. When this happened, they detected a faint ring which moved away from Uranus five times before finally disappearing behind it.
Researchers hypothesize that the formation of the rings may have resulted from fragmentation of one or more small inner moons, thought to contain organic compounds darkened by solar UV radiation exposure.
Neptune, located over 30 times further from the sun than Earth, is one of the coldest planets in our solar system, boasting supersonic winds and massive storm systems. Furthermore, Neptune is home to one of the icy planets with an atmosphere composed of hydrogen and helium combined with some methane for an atmosphere.
Neptune shares many similarities with Uranus; both feature thick fogs of water, methane, and ammonia covering its dense core. Neptune boasts the densest structure among all giant planets in our solar system.
Neptune’s methane atmosphere gives it its distinctive blue hue, similar to Uranus but much more vibrantly hued due to methane’s ability to absorb red light.
Neptune stands out amongst the stars with more than just its bluish hue, as well as other striking characteristics. It boasts 14 moons; some are quite large and spherical while others may be irregular in their shapes.
Neptune’s scientists speculate that pockets of liquid water might exist inside it, which would make its presence all the more intriguing given that water is essential to life on Earth.
Neptune’s atmosphere consists of 80% hydrogen and 19% helium with trace amounts of methane at higher elevations. Methane absorbs light in the red and infrared regions of the spectrum to give Neptune its blue hue.
Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune in 1989 revealed a mysterious “Great Dark Spot,” which rapidly shrunk and then reappeared later. Similar phenomena had also been witnessed elsewhere within its atmosphere.
Studies have also revealed that Neptune shares many similarities with Earth in terms of climate, with seasons lasting 40 years due to Neptune’s axial tilt.
Neptune’s tilt means that one hemisphere gets more sunlight than the other, thus leading to four seasons compared to Earth’s two.
Neptune also boasts its own distinct system of rings, discovered in 1984. Though thinner than those found around Saturn, these can still be seen with naked eyes.