What would happen if all of the gas planets’ atmospheres were stripped away?

It would take something special, but the consequences would change the Solar System as we know it


An artist’s depiction of an early stage in the destruction of a hot Jupiter by its star. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Frank Reddy

Asked by Keith Astley

If an event stripped away most of a gas planet’s atmosphere we’d be in trouble. It would take a large event to rid the giant planets of most of their mass, which could have profound effects on the dynamics of the Solar System. In terms of the planets themselves it is uncertain. Under our current understanding all four of the giant planets are believed to have a small solid core. The rest of the planets are believed to be a large gaseous layer and a large liquid layer. However, this liquid layer is likely only in a liquid state due to the pressure from the gas above. If the gas layer was stripped away, the liquid layer would likely boil away. For this to happen something would need to give these layers enough energy to exceed the pull of the planet’s gravity in order to strip them away.

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