The Outer Planets and The Gas Giants

Jupiter through a telescope

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Jupiter is the largest and heaviest planet in the solar system, second only to the Sun in sheer size and volume. Named after the Roman King of the Gods, Jupiter is well named, as some may say the King of the Sky! Jupiter was discovered by the earliest astronomers from Greece and Babylon. It was not until the invention of the early telescopes that the first of the moons of Jupiter were discovered by Galileo, who found 4 major moons orbiting around Jupiter. In fact, a total of 67 moons have now been recorded to circle the super planet.

Jupiter itself is very interesting to view through a telescope, and is viewable to both beginner and experienced astronomers. Jupiter is also known a s a gas giant, as the planet is comprised of a large volume of dense and cold gaseous elements, which is characterized by the swirling cloud bands around the equator. Furthermore, the famous red spot has been visible from Earth for hundreds of years and has been identified as a gigantic swirling storm, and you can even see it for yourself.


Saturn through a telescope

Saturn through the best telescope

The next planet in terms of distance from the Sun, is another gas giant, aptly named Saturn – father of the King of Gods. Saturn and Jupiter are similar in terms of large size, and the gaseous composition of their respective atmospheres, with both of them primarily composed of Hydrogen and Helium.

However, the most remarkable features of Saturn, are the extensive orbital rings that encircle the planet. The distinctive rings are made up of ice and dust that swirl in a spectacular and narrow arc around the equator of the planet. The bands form a captivating view of this incredible celestial body, and if you are serious with your astronomy, and you have a clear night sky, can actually focus onto the separate and well studied ring features with separate bands, and three dimensional shadow effects, which will reward your astronomical endeavors.


Uranus – a distant Orb

Uranus through the best telescope

Uranus is the third of the gas giant planets, but is so far from the Sun (and Earth) that it was never discovered by the ancient astronomers. Like Jupiter and Saturn, the planet has a high composition of Hydrogen and Helium, but being so far from the Sun, has a very cold and frozen atmosphere. For this reason it is often referred to as an “ice giant”. Its outer atmosphere provides a pale blue coloration which is the defining feature of this remote and distant world.



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Yet another planet known as an ice giant, Neptune is one of the most remote planets in the solar system, and strangely, was discovered first by theory rather than by observation. The mathematical existence of a planet beyond Uranus was proposed due to fluctuations observed soon after the discovery of Uranus. Indeed this proved to be true, and Neptune was soon discovered and named after the Roman god of the sea, due to its deep blue coloration. Neptune’s atmosphere is also subject to strong winds, and a severe storm which is known as the “Great Dark Spot” and is similar to the cyclonic storm known as the red spot on Jupiter.


Pluto in the Kuiper Belt

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And even for those who have not previously been interested in extraterrestrial worlds, the latest images to be provided of Pluto have shown us that this speck of a world at the outer edge of the solar system is anything but dull or uninteresting. Quite the opposite, this dwarf planet has re-invigorated the interest of the most experienced astronomers to discover how the solar system was created and what our nearest worlds are comprised of, and how they came to be. Pluto has a closely associated moon called Charon, and the pair form a unique satellite orbit around a common centre of gravity.

Don’t get your hopes too high, Pluto is out of reach of even the biggest telescopes on Earth.



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3 Responses to “The Outer Planets and The Gas Giants”

  1. Gwynne

    May 02. 2017

    La magnifica idea – great for educational purposes of the planets and telescopes

    Reply to this comment
  2. prodebok

    Jul 29. 2017

    There is another planet hiding out there somewhere!

    Reply to this comment


  1. Solar System – The Sun The Moon and the Inner Planets | Telescope Hub - November 2, 2015

    […] feels that there is a whole lot more to be learned about the solar system in general, so be sure to read further about the outer planets – in particular the mighty Gas Giants, and their critical part in our solar […]

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