A. Vazan, R. Helled, M. Podolak, A. Kovetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The internal structure of gas giant planets may be more complex than the commonly assumed core-envelope structure with an adiabatic temperature profile. Different primordial internal structures as well as various physical processes can lead to non-homogenous compositional distributions. A non-homogenous internal structure has a significant impact on the thermal evolution and final structure of the planets. In this paper, we present alternative structure and evolution models for Jupiter and Saturn allowing for non-adiabatic primordial structures and the mixing of heavy elements by convection as these planets evolve. We present the evolution of the planets accounting for various initial composition gradients, and in the case of Saturn, include the formation of a helium-rich region as a result of helium rain. We investigate the stability of regions with composition gradients against convection, and find that the helium shell in Saturn remains stable and does not mix with the rest of the envelope. In other cases, convection mixes the planetary interior despite the existence of compositional gradients, leading to the enrichment of the envelope with heavy elements. We show that non-adiabatic structures (and cooling histories) for both Jupiter and Saturn are feasible. The interior temperatures in that case are much higher than those for standard adiabatic models. We conclude that the internal structure is directly linked to the formation and evolution history of the planet. These alternative internal structures of Jupiter and Saturn should be considered when interpreting the upcoming Juno and Cassini data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the anonymous referee for valuable comments. We thank Carsten Dominik and Nadine Nettelmann for helpful remarks. A.V. acknowledge support from the Israeli Ministry of Science via Ilan Ramon fellowship. R.H. acknowledges support from the Israel Space Agency under grant 3-11485, and from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) grant 2014112.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..


  • planets and satellites: composition
  • planets and satellites: gaseous planets
  • planets and satellites: individual (Jupiter, Saturn)
  • planets and satellites: interiors
  • planets and satellites: physical evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'THE EVOLUTION and INTERNAL STRUCTURE of JUPITER and SATURN with COMPOSITIONAL GRADIENTS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this