Origin and Evolution of the Giant Planets

Conference paper
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (ASIC, volume 85)


Two major hypotheses concerning the origin of the giant planets are discussed: (A) a protoplanet forms in the solar nebula as a gravitationally unstable gaseous subcondensation and evolves as a chemically homogeneous object until a later stage when a solid core nay form; (B) a solid core forms first by accumulation of planetesimals, after which solar-composition gas accretes onto the core and eventually becomes unstable to collapse. In general, under either of these scenarios, the evolution falls into three phases: (1) an early cool phase in hydrostatic equilibrium, (2) a hydrodynamic collapse, and (3) a final phase of hydrostatic contraction and cooling to the present state. At the final stage the theoretical calculations may be fitted to present observed properties of the giant planets. The physical processes that are important in determining the evolutionary characteristics are discussed.


Giant Planet Thermal Bath Core Mass Hydrostatic Equilibrium Solar Nebula 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lick Observatory, Board of Studies in Astronomy and AstrophysicsUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Space Science DivisionNASA-Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA

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