MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: ...interacting ranges, likely is a 'laughing gas' giant planet?

Date: Tue Oct 17 07:58:09 2006
Posted By: Bryan Dunne, Instructor, Astronomy, University of Illinois
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 1158811247.As

Not very.  First, the freezing point of N2O is *negative* 90.9 C, not
positive 90.9 C.  This is roughly equivalent to the temperature at which
Jupiter formed (it's environment has cooled a little since it formed).  The
main problem with building a planet entirely of laughing gas is the
presence of hydrogen & helium gas.

Hydrogen & helium gas made up 98% of the nebula (space cloud of gas & dust)
from which the solar system formed.  Hydrogen and helium gas are very
light, and where the terrestrial planets formed, it was too hot for them to
condense onto the forming inner planets.  However, in the outer solar
system, it was cooler, so the hydrogen & helium gas could be captured by
the forming outer planets.  Jupiter and Saturn each captured so much of it
that they are 90+% hydrogen & helium!  In an environment where laughing gas
could condense, the temperature is low enough that hydrogen & helium can be
captured, and since they make up the vast majority of the solar nebula,
outer planets will end up with large amounts of them.

Also, given the abundance of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, & carbon will form
lots of "ices" with hydrogen - water ice, ammonia ice, methane ice.  These
"ices" are present in great amounts the outer planets too.

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