Aren't there any rock or similar firm material on/in the gas giant planets? What happens if a rock asteroid hits one of these planets? Shouldn't the rock accumulate in the center of the planet due to its high density?

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    $\begingroup$ Sure! But good luck trying to see the rock / metal components of Jupiter, or getting a reasonable estimate of how much it has. :) My gut feeling is that it has around as much rock & metal as Earth does, give or take half an order of magnitude. Of course, I could be totally wrong. :) $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ However, note that hydrogen can be compressed to a very dense metallic state, and rocks that fall on Jupiter may not be dense enough to penetrate that, assuming that Jupiter does have a metallic hydrogen layer / core. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 2:03

1 Answer 1


The inside of a giant planet is not like regular gas.

First of all, it is hot. You are away of how it gets hot inside the Earth (causing volcanos). It is also hot inside Jupiter, but since Jupiter is bigger, it is hotter. It would be hot enough to vaporise rock under "normal conditions".

The pressure is immense, and things stop behaving as you are used to when the pressure is very high. For example, all the atoms in a gas are pushed so close together that they are touching (like they would be in a liquid). This means that there is no boiling point and no real difference between the gas and liquid phases. At extreme pressures, hydrogen atoms are pushed so close together that their electrons can start to flow from atom to atom, forming a fluid metal.

Pressure that can push atoms so close that they can turn hydrogen to a metal mean that you can't send a probe to this region. You can't swim in a metallic hydrogen sea.

Nevertheless, heavier atoms like iron, silicon, carbon, oxygen, will tend to fall towards the centre of the planet, and so there may be a since rocks are made mostly of atoms like iron, silicon, carbon, oxygen, you could describe this as a "rocky" core. But don't think this is a kind of solid surface that you could stand on.

  • $\begingroup$ Why can't you stand on such a core (or place a rock on it)? $\endgroup$
    – d-b
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ In the case of Jupiter, the Juno mission data indicates that the core does not have a sharp boundary and may be partially dissolved. $\endgroup$
    – user24157
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @mistertribs What does that ("dissolved") even mean in this context!? $\endgroup$
    – d-b
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Because it isn't a solid. It is at 10,000 degrees, partly degenerate fluid. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Chunks of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 may still be sinking into Jupiter. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Shoemaker%E2%80%93Levy_9 The explosions on impact were impressive, so there may just be dust left. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 16:54

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