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Understanding Gas Giants: What Is a “Hot Jupiter” Anyway?

What are gas giants? Gas giants are large planets of relatively low density consisting predominantly of hydrogen and helium, such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets, unlike their counterparts, don’t have hard surfaces that are made from rock. Instead they’re comprised of “swirling gases and a solid core.”

For most of human history, our understanding of planets has evolved, primarily based on the eight (or nine) planets in our own sun system. Over the past 25 years, the discovery of more than 4,000 exoplanets, or planets outside our sun system, has changed our understanding.

There are common questions like, “Could a human ever live on a gas giant?” or “What would happen if a human went to a gas giant?” The answer to both questions is that humans would fall to their death because there is no solid ground to stand on. Also, because it is really hot, up to 20,000 degrees Farenheit or Celcius, people would certainly be incinerated.

Some gas giants have been labled “hot jupiters” by scientists because they orbit very close to their star. Scientists recently discovered a new exoplanet “hot jupiter” called HIP67522, the youngest they have ever found as of now. Most gas giants are approximately one billion years old. This newest one orbits a star that’s 17 million years old, making this gas giant just a few million years younger.

“Hot jupiters” or “gas giants” already have a lot of information tied to them, but that knowledge will only grow with more research.

[Sources: NASA; Science Daily]

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