The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington

UTA Planetarium

UTA Planetarium

Ask the Astronomer Q&A

Tag: "uranus"

  • Can we make Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune into mini-Suns using lasers to ignite the fusion process, like they do at the National Ignition Facility? If so, will their moons begin to rotate instead of being tidally locked?
  • Your question is an interesting one. However, I must say that there is no way to turn these planets into mini-Suns by sending laser beams. Here are several major problems with your suggestion. First, laser beams would be damped in atmospheres of these planets and the beams would never reach central parts of the planets. Second, lasers beams are highly collimated, which means that we could only trigger a fusion process very locally in the upper parts of the planetary atmospheres, where gas density and temperature are relatively low. Third, the fusion process (if ever triggered) would neither be sustained nor spread throughout the atmosphere. Fourth, neither of these planets would be able to sustain nuclear reactions in their interiors (even if we found a way to ignite them there) because the interior temperatures and densities in these planets are not high enough to initiate any fusion process. Finally, I do not think that our current lasers are strong enough to even trigger a very localized fusion process in the most upper parts of atmospheres of these planets. Now, the fact that the moons are tidally locked has to do with the planet’s gravity, which would not change whether nuclear reactions would occur or not.

    (Tags:  gravity  jupiter  laser  light  neptune  planet  saturn  sun  uranus)
  • How many planets have rings?
  • All the gas giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - in our solar system have rings, but only Saturn's are bright enough to see from ground based telescopes. Although astronomers have not yet detected rings around planets orbiting other stars, it is likely that they do exist outside of our solar system as well.

    (Tags:  exoplanet  jupiter  neptune  planet  saturn  solar system  uranus)
  • Is it possible that the gas giant planets are just planets that haven't fully formed yet? Like gravity hasn't fully brought them together and compressed them to a solid yet?
  • The gas giant planets are fully formed planets. They just don’t have solid ground. But they definitely have gravity. Everything that has mass, has gravity. The more massive an object, the more gravity it has. And the gas giants have A LOT of mass. Jupiter, for example, is 318 times more massive than Earth and has 2.5 times more gravity than Earth. This incredible amount of gravity holds the planet together and compresses the gas into a liquid closer to the center.

    (Tags:  gravity  jupiter  neptune  planet  saturn  uranus)
  • What's going on on Uranus? Why is it's tilt so different than every other planet?
  • Uranus was probably hit by a planet sized chunk of rock, early in the formation of the solar system, causing it to be tipped over on its side.

    (Tags:  planet  solar system  uranus)