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The Gas Giants

The Gas Giants

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The Gas Giants

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  1. The Gas Giants Astronomy 311 Professor Lee Carkner Lecture 16

  2. Upcoming Events • Thursday, October 21 • Nelson Lecture in Astronomy • Dr. Jason Steffen, “Kepler Mission’s Search for Planets Around Other Stars: Finding Other Earths” • Saturday, October 23 • Planetarium Open House • See planetarium show and look through telescopes • 10 points extra credit on observing project for each

  3. Gas Giant Basics • Sometimes called Jovian or Outer planets • Does not include Pluto • The gas giants have no real surface, all we see is atmosphere

  4. Missions to the Outer Planets • 1972 Pioneer 10 -- Jupiter flyby • 1973 Pioneer 11 -- Jupiter/Saturn flyby • 1977 Voyager 2 --Jupiter/Saturn/Uranus/ Neptune flyby • 1997 Cassini -- Saturn orbiter and Titan probe (Huygens) • arrived 2004, currently taking data

  5. Voyager 2 • Took advantage of favorable alignment of outer planets to visit them all • Used gravity of each planet to change orbit to get to the next • Is still taking data on the edge of the solar system

  6. Voyager 2’s Grand Tour

  7. Jupiter Diameter: 11.21 Mass: 317.83 Orbital Radius: 5.20 Saturn Diameter: 9.42 Mass: 95.16 Orbital Radius: 9.54 Uranus Diameter: 4.01 Mass: 14.50 Orbital Radius: 19.19 Neptune Diameter: 3.88 Mass: 17.20 Orbital Radius: 30.06 Gas Giant Facts • Numbers are relative to the Earth

  8. Orbits • Orbital radii for the outer planets range from ~5-30 AU • The outer planets cover a much larger region • Gas giants don’t move much in the sky from our viewpoint

  9. Sizes of the Gas Giants • Jupiter and Saturn about 10 Earth diameters • Uranus and Neptune about 4 Earth diameters • The gas giants contain 99% of the mass of the solar system (not including the Sun) • Volume and mass go as radius cubed

  10. Densities • Average density (kg/m3) • Jupiter: • Saturn: • Uranus: • Neptune: • For comparison Earth’s density is 5515 • Saturn is less dense than water (it floats)

  11. Composition • The gas giants have a low density because they are made up mostly of hydrogen and helium, the 2 lightest elements • Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant element in the universe (1 proton + 1 electron) • Total composition • ~5% heavier elements (methane, ammonia, water vapor etc.)

  12. Atmospheric Features • Clouds • small amounts of trace elements may produce the colors • Bands • adjacent bands move in opposite directions • Storms • some are very long lived (e.g. Great Red Spot)

  13. Continuous Boost • Rate of change of speed is called the acceleration, a • Solution: turn around halfway and decelerate to a stop

  14. Time to get to Planet • Find time to get half way there and double it • In general, distance equals ½at2 • As a simple estimation, we will assume a direct boost at opposition • In reality we would have to take into account the orbital velocities of the planets

  15. Odyssey to Jupiter Jupiter at Conjunction Spaceship Direct Boost Earth Spacecraft Least Energy Orbit Jupiter at Opposition

  16. Structure • Degree of oblateness depends on mass distribution • Models indicate that gas giants have a small, dense, rock-ice core • Must have conducting liquid interiors

  17. Internal Structure of Jupiter

  18. Moons • Number of satellites (larger than ~10 km) • Jupiter -- 16 • Saturn -- 26 • Uranus -- 27 • Neptune -- 13 • Including the very small ones, about 170 total

  19. Moon Properties • Satellites tend to be composed of rock and ice • Many have rocky cores and icy surfaces • Io is very active and covered with volcanoes • Europa may have a liquid water ocean

  20. Rings • All of the gas giants have rings of small particles • The rings of the other planets are made of smaller darker particles and were only discovered by spacecraft • This is the region where the tidal force from the planet is greater than the gravitational force holding the object together

  21. Differences Between the Gas Giants • Uranus and Neptune are smaller, cooler and have less distinct cloud features

  22. Next Time • Read 11.1-11.4, 11.6

  23. Summary • Size: ~4-11 times Earth diameter • Mass: ~15-318 Earth masses • Composition: mostly hydrogen and helium • Atmosphere: clouds of methane and ammonia • also have large, long-lived storm systems and oppositely moving bands

  24. Summary: The Jovian Systems • The gas giants have extensive satellite systems • Many moons have icy exteriors with rocky cores • Some are very large (~size of Earth’s Moon) • All of the outer planets (not just Saturn have ring systems) • rings composed of small particles • Ring properties different for each planet