Future exploration of the outer solar system



Future exploration of the outer solar system

Exploration of the giant planets of our solar system over the past few decades has revealed four unique, complex and dynamic worlds. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune have deep fluid interiors, gaseous atmospheres and extended magnetospheres, which serve as natural planetary-scale laboratories for the fundamental physical and chemical processes at work throughout our galaxy.

Shrinking the planetary radii to occupy the same scale allows scientists to compare the planetary ring and satellite systems for the four giant planets.

Their bulk compositions and internal structures provide signatures of the conditions within our solar nebula during the epoch of planet formation. Each harbours a complex system of planetary rings and a diverse collection of satellite environments, some with deep hidden oceans that may be of astrobiological importance. And although our understanding of these systems remains in its infancy, the four giants serve as templates for the interpretation of exoplanetary systems being discovered throughout our galaxy. The scope for new discoveries in this vast region beyond Mars is enormous, and there is no shortage of exciting mission concepts.

Credit: Leigh Fletcher


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