Giant planets

Definition

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.

Featured

Latest Research and Reviews

  • Research |

    The authors discover that Jupiter's southern X-ray aurora is concentrated into a hot spot (until now only the north pole was known to have one), which behaves completely differently in brightness and timing pulsation from its northern counterpart.

    • W. R. Dunn
    • , G. Branduardi-Raymont
    • , L. C. Ray
    • , C. M. Jackman
    • , R. P. Kraft
    • , R. F. Elsner
    • , I. J. Rae
    • , Z. Yao
    • , M. F. Vogt
    • , G. H. Jones
    • , G. R. Gladstone
    • , G. S. Orton
    • , J. A. Sinclair
    • , P. G. Ford
    • , G. A. Graham
    • , R. Caro-Carretero
    •  & A. J. Coates
    Nature Astronomy 1, 758–764
  • Research |

    The 2010–2011 storm that appeared at Saturn’s northern mid-latitudes significantly altered the wind structure and atmospheric temperature even far away from the storm, by disrupting the quasi-periodic atmospheric oscillations at the equator for more than 3 years.

    • Leigh N. Fletcher
    • , Sandrine Guerlet
    • , Glenn S. Orton
    • , Richard G. Cosentino
    • , Thierry Fouchet
    • , Patrick G. J. Irwin
    • , Liming Li
    • , F. Michael Flasar
    • , Nicolas Gorius
    •  & Raúl Morales-Juberías
    Nature Astronomy 1, 765–770
  • Research |

    The process that generates Earth’s most intense aurora is found to occur at Jupiter, but is of only secondary importance in generating Jupiter’s much more powerful aurora.

    • B. H. Mauk
    • , D. K. Haggerty
    • , C. Paranicas
    • , G. Clark
    • , P. Kollmann
    • , A. M. Rymer
    • , S. J. Bolton
    • , S. M. Levin
    • , A. Adriani
    • , F. Allegrini
    • , F. Bagenal
    • , B. Bonfond
    • , J. E. P. Connerney
    • , G. R. Gladstone
    • , W. S. Kurth
    • , D. J. McComas
    •  & P. Valek
    Nature 549, 66–69
  • Research |

    Diamonds precipitate from methane under the intense pressures of the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus. Here, a laser shock experiment on a hydrocarbon sample shows that diamonds may require ten times as much pressure to precipitate as was previously thought.

    • D. Kraus
    • , J. Vorberger
    • , A. Pak
    • , N. J. Hartley
    • , L. B. Fletcher
    • , S. Frydrych
    • , E. Galtier
    • , E. J. Gamboa
    • , D. O. Gericke
    • , S. H. Glenzer
    • , E. Granados
    • , M. J. MacDonald
    • , A. J. MacKinnon
    • , E. E. McBride
    • , I. Nam
    • , P. Neumayer
    • , M. Roth
    • , A. M. Saunders
    • , A. K. Schuster
    • , P. Sun
    • , T. van Driel
    • , T. Döppner
    •  & R. W. Falcone
    Nature Astronomy 1, 606–611
  • Research |

    Observations of the gas-giant exoplanet WASP-121b reveal near-infrared emission lines of water, suggesting that the planet has a stratosphere—a layer in the upper atmosphere where temperature increases with altitude.

    • Thomas M. Evans
    • , David K. Sing
    • , Tiffany Kataria
    • , Jayesh Goyal
    • , Nikolay Nikolov
    • , Hannah R. Wakeford
    • , Drake Deming
    • , Mark S. Marley
    • , David S. Amundsen
    • , Gilda E. Ballester
    • , Joanna K. Barstow
    • , Lotfi Ben-Jaffel
    • , Vincent Bourrier
    • , Lars A. Buchhave
    • , Ofer Cohen
    • , David Ehrenreich
    • , Antonio García Muñoz
    • , Gregory W. Henry
    • , Heather Knutson
    • , Panayotis Lavvas
    • , Alain Lecavelier des Etangs
    • , Nikole K. Lewis
    • , Mercedes López-Morales
    • , Avi M. Mandell
    • , Jorge Sanz-Forcada
    • , Pascal Tremblin
    •  & Roxana Lupu
    Nature 548, 58–61

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    The tropical stratospheric temperature and wind field of several planets oscillate quasi-periodically. Recent Cassini observations show that Saturn’s oscillations were disturbed for more than three years by the year-long giant storm that appeared in 2010.

    • Cheng Li
    Nature Astronomy 1, 753–754
  • News and Views |

    The discovery of Jupiter’s southern X-ray aurora reveals that it is tellingly different from the northern one, providing important clues to how Jupiter’s polar aurorae are generated.

    • Tom S. Stallard
    Nature Astronomy 1, 755–756
  • Comments and Opinion |

    The NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini–Huygens mission ends in a ‘Grand Finale’ this month, after 13 years in orbit around Saturn. The ESA and NASA JPL project scientists Nicolas Altobelli, Linda J. Spilker and Scott G. Edgington give an overview of the last moments of Cassini’s operational lifetime.

    • Nicolas Altobelli
    • , Linda J. Spilker
    •  & Scott G. Edgington
  • Editorial |

    Cassini has been a pinnacle of our quest for the understanding of the space around us. Its end symbolically marks the beginning of a period of relative dearth for Solar System exploration, but planetary science won’t stop thriving.