If Jupiter is made of gas, could we fly or drive through it or would its center be too dense?
We think of a gas as something very . . . well, airy. After all, air is the gas we all know and love. We breathe it and fly planes right through it with no trouble. So it makes sense to think that a gas planet must be like a big, airy cloud floating out in space. Saturn in true color.
The bigger a planet becomes, the heavier is the material weighing down on its center. Think of how it feels to dive under water. If you are wearing a face mask, you notice that as you dive deeper, the mask presses harder and harder on your face. Also, your ears start feeling the pressure even at 2 or 3 meters (5 or 10 feet) below the surface. The pressure you feel on your body is due to the weight of the water above you. The deeper you go, the heavier the water above you and so the greater the pressure on your body. Even on Earth's surface, each square inch of your body experiences 14.7 pounds of pressure due to the weight of the atmosphere above you. If you could dive down to the center of Earth, the pressure on your body would be about 3.5 million times as great! The center of Jupiter is more than 11 times deeper than Earth's center and the pressure may be 50 million to 100 million times that on Earth's surface!
The tremendous pressure at the center of planets causes the temperatures there to be surprisingly high. At their cores, Jupiter and Saturn are much hotter than the surface of the Sun!
Strange things happen to matter under these extraordinary temperatures and pressures. Hydrogen, along with helium, is the main ingredient of Jupiter's and Saturn's atmospheres. Deep in their atmospheres, the hydrogen turns into a liquid. Deeper still, the liquid hydrogen turns into a metal!
But what's at the very center of these planets? The material becomes stranger and stranger the deeper you go. Scientists do not understand the properties of matter under the extreme environments inside Jupiter and Saturn. Many different forces and laws of nature are at work, and the conditions inside these planets are very difficult to create in a laboratory here on Earth. But you can be sure that you wouldn't be able to fly through these bizarre materials! As we now know, the gas giants are much more than just gas.