Giant planets


Giant planets are large planets, typically 10 or more times the mass of Earth, made predominantly of liquid or gas, notably hydrogen and helium. There are four giants in the solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research |

    Global-scale Rossby waves develop in planets’ atmospheres and influence their weather. Now, similar waves, driven by magnetism, are unambiguously detected on the Sun. They can possibly help the forecasting of solar activity and related space weather.

    • Scott W. McIntosh
    • , William J. Cramer
    • , Manuel Pichardo Marcano
    •  & Robert J. Leamon
  • Reviews |

    This Review gives an overview of some pivotal open questions on planetary formation and evolution, with water as the underlying common theme, and how the planetary and exoplanetary communities can help each other in addressing them.

    • Andrew P. Ingersoll
  • Research | | open

    The origin, variability, and structure of Saturn’s intense and broad eastward equatorial jet at upper cloud level are complex and unexplained. Here, based on observations of a large, bright equatorial disturbance in 2015, the authors characterise the vertical structure of the jet and its long-term variability.

    • A. Sánchez-Lavega
    • , E. García-Melendo
    • , S. Pérez-Hoyos
    • , R. Hueso
    • , M. H. Wong
    • , A. Simon
    • , J. F. Sanz-Requena
    • , A. Antuñano
    • , N. Barrado-Izagirre
    • , I. Garate-Lopez
    • , J. F. Rojas
    • , T. del Río-Gaztelurrutia
    • , J. M. Gómez-Forrellad
    • , I. de Pater
    • , L. Li
    •  & T. Barry
  • Research |

    The upper atmosphere above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot—the largest storm in the Solar System—is hundreds of degrees hotter than anywhere else on the planet; the heating must come from below, suggesting coupling between Jupiter’s lower and upper atmospheres, probably the result of upwardly propagating acoustic or gravity waves.

    • J. O’Donoghue
    • , L. Moore
    • , T. S. Stallard
    •  & H. Melin
    Nature 536, 190–192
  • Research |

    Cassini’s encounter with Saturn’s magnetotail — the long magnetosphere region stretching into space — has revealed that plasma exits the magnetosphere through long-duration magnetic reconnection, which ejects ten times more mass than estimated.

    • C. S. Arridge
    • , J. P. Eastwood
    • , C. M. Jackman
    • , G.-K. Poh
    • , J. A. Slavin
    • , M. F. Thomsen
    • , N. André
    • , X. Jia
    • , A. Kidder
    • , L. Lamy
    • , A. Radioti
    • , D. B. Reisenfeld
    • , N. Sergis
    • , M. Volwerk
    • , A. P. Walsh
    • , P. Zarka
    • , A. J. Coates
    •  & M. K. Dougherty
    Nature Physics 12, 268–271

News and Comment

  • Comments and Opinion |

    NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter has just returned its early science results after spending a year orbiting the ‘King of the Solar System’. Principal Investigator Scott Bolton summarizes what we have learnt.

    • Scott J. Bolton
  • Comments and Opinion |

    After more than a decade exploring Saturn and its moons, the Cassini mission is in its closing act. Cassini's last year is an encore performance stuffed with science, including a final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere.

    • Scott G. Edgington
    •  & Linda J. Spilker
    Nature Geoscience 9, 472–473
  • News and Views |

    Saturn's poles exhibit giant swirling cyclones, whereas Jupiter's poles may not. Simulations of giant planet atmospheres suggest that just the right balance of convective storm energy and poleward drift of cyclones may explain Saturn's vortices.

    • Leigh N. Fletcher
    Nature Geoscience 8, 503–504
  • News and Views |

    Saturn's F ring is chaperoned on both sides by the tiny moons Prometheus and Pandora. Numerical simulations show that this celestial ballet can result from the collision of two aggregates that evolved out of Saturn's main rings.

    • Aurélien Crida
    Nature Geoscience 8, 666–667
  • Editorial |

    Research on the Solar System's planets has moved beyond fly-by science. Long-term observations of planetary bodies can yield insights as the days, seasons and years pass.