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Q & A: gas giant planets near stars

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Most recent answer: 06/13/2011
Q:
I was asking why Jupiter and the other gaseous planets did not form close to the sun instead of our rocky planets. Why the order of planet closest to the sun is not Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune instead of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars? Is it by luck of if there are physical laws that prevent such an order?
- Anonymous
A:
That's a very interesting question. We don't know the answer, and it seems from this nice Wikipedia article that there's quite a bit of uncertainty:

It's hard for a planet made out of chemicals that can easily turn to gas (e.g. hydrogen) to be stable near a hot star. Basically, the material would boil off.  So one expects planets very close to a star to be made of something which evaporates much more slowly, such as rocks. 

There's some question about what's going on with the very heavy planets found rather close to some distant stars.

Mike W.

(published on 06/13/2011)

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