Q:

What are planets made of?

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Quick Answer

The inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, are made up of silicate rock and heavy metals such as iron and nickel, whereas the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, are made up mostly of gases, according to Universe Today. The outer planets are subdivided into gas giants, comprised mostly of hydrogen and helium, and ice giants, comprised mostly of methane, ammonia and water.

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What are planets made of?
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Full Answer

Despite being made up mostly of gases, the outer planets have a rock core. However, they are still less dense and located further away from the sun than the inner or terrestrial planets. Astronomers are able to to determine how planets formed by studying the structure of the solar system and other younger planetary systems that are in varying stages of development.

The dominant theory, according to HowStuffWorks, states that solar wind emanating from the sun blew light elements, mostly gases, away into the outer orbits. Gravity then drew these elements in causing them to form giant balls. The discovery of hot Jupiters in 1995, however, put a dent in this theory. Hot Jupiters are a type of gas giant that orbit very close to the sun. Astronomers theorize that such planets form far away from the sun and then move closer through orbital migration.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the composition of Uranus?

    A:

    Uranus is composed largely of hydrogen and helium like the other gas giants. It also has water ice, methane ice and ammonia ice. There are also tiny amounts of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons such as ethane, acetylene, diacetylene and methylacetylene.

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  • Q:

    What does the word "planet" mean?

    A:

    The word "planet" in Greek means "wanderer." Planets were thought to be moving against the still background of stars. The planets move, or revolve, around the sun in relatively fixed orbits.

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  • Q:

    Why do the interiors of the Jovian planets differ?

    A:

    The interiors of the Jovian planets, also known as gas giants, are different because of their sizes. Jupiter and Saturn, the largest of the four Jovian planets, are massive enough to compress materials into a rocky core. Uranus and Neptune exert less pressure, which causes their cores to be in an icy, liquid state.

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  • Q:

    How many moon does Venus have?

    A:

    Venus does not have any natural satellites (moons). Venus is a  terrestrial  planet, and it is the only planet besides Mercury that does not have any moons.

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