Notes on Gas Planets in our Solar System

When we hear the term Gas Giants, our minds race directly to several planets located within our Solar System, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets share several defining characteristics that allow them to be lumped together into the same category. In particular, it is the high percentage of helium and hydrogen within their over-all composition that places them apart from other more terrestrial solar bodies. However, the term Gas Giant is a bit misleading in that it tells us very little about the actual composition of these unique worlds.Gas giants are composed of a high percentage of solid material. Due to the extreme pressure that exists within the core of a gas giant, hydrogen may be converted into a metallic solid or liquid form. Frequently, there are other materials interspersed within this solid matrix as well. Although all gas giants contain high amounts of hydrogen and helium within their overall…

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Why Is Pluto Not a Planet?

History of Pluto's Discovery Pluto was previously considered a planet since it's discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto had little resistance to its classification as the ninth planet upon its discovery. This may have been a slight case of confirmation bias since the presence of a "ninth planet" or "planet X" was hypothesized by Percival Lowell. Lowell believed that the apparent discrepancies of Uranus were the causation of another planet beyond Neptune. Pluto was within only 6 degrees of the predicted location of the ninth planet as predicted by Lowell. However, Lowell predicted that this planet would be around 6.6 the mass of Earth.As telescopes improved, we were able to learn more about Pluto. In 1950, Gerard Kuiper was able to observe Pluto as a spherical world using a 200-inch telescope at Mount Palomar. Kuiper estimated that Pluto's diameter was around 5,900 kilometers. Pluto was observed as it passed near…

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What are Exoplanets?

One of the best-kept secrets of our times is the fact that planets exist outside of our Solar System. Exoplanets are planets orbiting one of the billions of stars we see in the nighttime sky. As our ability to search through the vastness of space increases, we continue to find ourselves faced with an ever-expanding potential of discovering planets that could look and behave a lot like Earth. That's all fine and dandy, but wouldn't you instead impress your friends with your exoplanetary knowledge? Look no further! The History of Exoplanetary Exploration Humans began their interest in exoplanets around the 16th century. The Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was the first to publicly support the idea based off of his belief in the Copernican theory that Earth and the other known planets of the time were indeed orbiting around the sun. He speculated that this should also be the case for different…

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