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Beyond Earthly Skies

Formation of Binary Giant Planets

21 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Formation of Binary Giant Planets
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Giant planets seem to be ubiquitous around Sun-like stars. Our Solar System has two giant planets - Jupiter and Saturn. Both planets are primarily composed of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter and Saturn have 318 and 95 times the mass of Earth, respectively. Beyond Saturn, the planets Uranus and Neptune are generally classified as “ice giants” because they have much smaller masses and differ considerably in composition compared to Jupiter and Saturn. The orbits of Jupiter and Saturn form a 5:2 orbital resonance. For every five times Jupiter circles the Sun, Saturn would circle the Sun twice. On the whole, the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn are stable over the entire age of our Solar System.In a planetary system with two giant planets, such as our Solar System, energy and angular momentum are conserved between the two giant planets, and the planetary system is stable. Instability only occurs if the orbits of the two giant planets bring them very close to one another. Exoplanet discoveries over the years have revealed a remarkable diversity of planetary systems. A number of studies have shown that planetary systems with three or more giant planets tend to be unstable. For such a planetary system, perturbations ...

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