Is Jupiter made entirely out of gas?

  • I heard that Jupiter is made out of gas. But in school I learned that Jupiter has gravity which is 2.5 times that of Earth (Gravity that can tear apart a comet) and gravity is proportional to mass.

    So if Jupiter is made out of gas alone, how does it have such high gravity and maintain so many moons around it?

    Jupiter has a **lot** of gas. Don't sit next to him in the theater.

    Jupiter is made (mostly) out of elements that are gases *at standard conditions for temperature and pressure (STP, 0-20 °C, 1 atm)*. Jupiter is mostly *not* at STP--the pressures are so great throughout the majority of these giants that these "gases" are compressed into liquids and solids to give overall densities comparable to water (1.33 g/mL for Jupiter, 0.68 g/mL for Saturn).

    @Nick T. Hot Jupiter exoplanets can have densities similar to lead. They are still *gas* giants. The *gas* at the centre of the Sun is 160 times denser than water.

    @RobJeffries you're already 4 orders of magnitude up on hydrogen at 1 atm (or dozens if you're talking about it as a nebula), so what's another few? I was mostly alluding to how "gas" is subjective.

    @Nick T No, it is not subjective. Gas particles have no (or at least little) interaction energy compared with their kinetic energies. The material at the centre of the Sun behaves (almost) like an ideal gas.

    @RobJeffries fine, "biased" by what we experience on earth.

    @Nick T Biased? Gases and liquids and solids are quite different things. The changes between them - phase changes - occur, not at certain densities, but at loci in the pressure versus temperature plane. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. The gas in the centre of the Sun is an ideal gas and behaves like one, even though it is 160 times as dense as water. There could be solids and probably are liquids inside Jupiter but we would already know it all if all it depended on was the density - which is reasonably well known - at the core, about 70 times that of water.

    Strikers - please don't add new questions as an edit. The comet struck Jupiter - the images are online. It probably didn't 'strike' the core as such - it would have fallen in until densities matched, so that may be at the surface of liquid.

  • It doesn't matter if the body is made of gas, rocks, liquid or plasma, the four states of matter all have mass. So, as we know, mass create a gravitational field, and the more mass the stronger the gravity - and Jupiter has 317x Earth mass.

    you mean to say needless of having rock on it jupiter is having gravity due to the mass of gas.

    strikers - the core is almost certainly liquid (hydrogen and helium, mostly), but even if there was solid in there it wouldn't be rock. Gravity is entirely down to mass. It doesn't care what form that mass is in.

    Metallic hydrogen, as we've seen it, has a density around 0.6g/cc: rocks run from about 2 to 7 or more per cubic cm. Unless there's a phase change in solid hydrogen down near the core, those rocks are going to want to sink. They've had a *long* time to do so.

  • Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter a few years back.

    As well as these molecules, emission from heavy atoms such as iron, magnesium and silicon was detected, with abundances consistent with what would be found in a cometary nucleus.

    Those heavy elements are consistent with the comet being at least being partially composed of rock. So Jupiter is known to contain at least some rock. In fact, gas giants are thought to form around an initial small rocky or metallic core, which has sufficient gravity to draw in hydrogen, helium, water etc. from the protoplanetary nebula. By 'small rocky core' something with the mass of two or more earths is usually implied. The gravity field of such a body makes it difficult for even hydrogen to achieve escape velocity.

    The source that you give seems to be ambiguous as to whether the heavy atoms originate from Shoemaker–Levy or from Jupiter itself. Since Jupiter is suspected to be solid only to 78% of its radius (ISBN 0816051968) and since the outer layers of its solid core are predicted to be metallic hydrogen, I find it incredibly unlikely that heavy atoms like iron, magnesium, and silicon exist in such concentrations that they would be described as comet-like. The emissions must have been from the disintegration of the comet itself.

    @MatthewPiziak Sure, I didn't mean to imply otherwise. But now they're rock, *and* part of Jupiter. For Jupiter to be entirely non-rocky, as was asked, you'd have to come up with a mechanism to exclude passing dust grains and asteroids from the death grip of the planet's gravity well.

    Ah, sorry, I misunderstood you. I see what you're saying now. Since Shoemaker–Levy is *part* of Jupiter now, Jupiter therefore contains iron, magnesium, and silicon. :)

  • I concur with everyone else here (of course) that the gravity at the "surface" of Jupiter is entirely determined by the mass contained within that surface. The composition makes no difference.

    However I differ with some on the answer to the headline title question. We simply do not know whether Jupiter has a rocky core.

    A popular theory for the formation of giant planets is that they must begin by forming a rocky/icy core with perhaps a mass of 10-20 times the mass of the Earth. This then slowly accretes for a few million years until it grows massive enough for a runaway short period of gas accretion that builds its entire mass. See for another popular account.

    If Jupiter formed like this then it should have a core. However, this is not the only game in town. Planets could also form in the protoplanetary disk by collapsing directly, in which case there would be no rocky/icy core. The recent discoveries of possible planet formation around the $<1$ million-year old HL Tau has led to a resurgence of this idea - it is difficult to form gas giants by core-accretion so quickly.

    The answer may come reasonably soon. In July 2016, NASA's Juno spacecraft will arrive in orbit around Jupiter. One of its prime mission objective is to gather more information on how massive the core is at the centre of Jupiter using a battery of instruments including an experiment very sensitive to tiny gravitational field variations.

    There we go. I was hoping someone would mention this.

    So, did the answer come?

  • According to Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, you simply need interacting masses in order to generate a gravitational force between them. Gases have mass and they therefore can contribute to gravity. So even if Jupiter is entirely gaseous, it is so incredibly massive besides (so much gas!), that it has a much stronger gravitational pull than Earth. The Sun is gaseous too, after all.

    Be cautious, however, when someone compares gravitational forces so simply as "2.5 times". There is always a hidden assumption/reference in this because the force depends on more than just mass (e.g. distance). Earth's gravity is way stronger where I sit! In your teacher's case, it is probably meant that the gravitational force felt at the surface of Jupiter is 2.5 times what you would feel on the surface of Earth. To choose a "surface" for a gaseous planet, you need to make more assumptions.

    Anyhow, for the titled question, it is highly likely that Jupiter is not entirely gaseous. With all of that matter (not just hydrogen and helium, but everything else everything in our solar system is made of) and all of that gravitational pull, you are bound to have precipitated solids that condense into a solid planetary core.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM