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Extraterrestrial Life: Problem Set #1 Solutions 1) Explain briefly how the terrestrial planets (such as the Earth) differ from
 

Summary: Extraterrestrial Life: Problem Set #1 Solutions
1) Explain briefly how the terrestrial planets (such as the Earth) differ from
the giant planets (such as Jupiter). Describe how these differences are
thought to arise as a consequence of the theory of the formation of the
Solar System.
The terrestrial planets are low mass planets (the most massive is the Earth)
whose composition is predominantly rock. The atmospheres of the
terrestrial planets make up a very small fraction of the mass. The giant
planets have larger masses (though there is a wide range between Jupiter
at the massive end and Uranus / Neptune at the low mass end) and have
substantial (many Earth mass) gaseous envelopes. In the Solar System the
giant planets all lie in the outer Solar System, exterior to the orbits of the
terrestrial planets.
It is thought that these differences arise from the timing of the planet
formation process. The cores of the gas giants formed relatively quickly,
and became massive enough to capture their massive envelopes before the
gas in the protoplanetary disk was lost. The terrestrial planets formed more
slowly, and so never gained massive primordial atmospheres. Going
further, the more rapid formation of large bodies in the outer Solar System
may be due to an increased density of solid materials beyond the snowline

  

Source: Armitage, Phil - Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder

 

Collections: Physics