Planetary core

A planetary core consists of the innermost layers of a planet.[1] Cores may be entirely solid or entirely liquid, or a mixture of solid and liquid layers as is the case in the Earth.[2] In the Solar System, core sizes range from about 20% (the Moon) to 85% of a planet's radius (Mercury).

The internal structure of the inner planets.
The internal structure of the outer planets.

Gas giants also have cores, though the composition of these are still a matter of debate and range in possible composition from traditional stony/iron, to ice or to fluid metallic hydrogen.[3][4][5] Gas giant cores are proportionally much smaller than those of terrestrial planets, though they can be considerably larger than the Earth's nevertheless; Jupiter's is 10–30 times heavier than Earth,[5] and exoplanet HD149026 b may have a core 100 times the mass of the Earth.[6]

Planetary cores are challenging to study because they are impossible to reach by drill and there are almost no samples that are definitively from the core. Thus, they are studied via indirect techniques such as seismology, mineral physics, and planetary dynamics.


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