The molecular-metallic transition of hydrogen and the structure of Jupiter and Saturn

Gilles Chabrier, Didier Saumon, William B. Hubbard, Jonathan I. Lunine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Recently, a new equation of state for hydrogen which predicts a molecular-metallic phase transition at finite temperature has become available. It is combined with a helium equation of state, and the resulting thermodynamic description of H/He mixtures is used to compute interior models of Jupiter and Saturn, subject to the constraints of the measured gravitational harmonics of both planets. We discuss the inferred heavy element abundance distribution in their interiors and the possible consequences on their formation. In particular, the Z-element enhancement and smaller core in Saturn relative to Jupiter, a conclusion of this study, may indicate a depletion of water ice in the Jupiter formation zone. In a companion paper, we investigate the effect of the molecular-metallic phase transition on the thermal evolution of Jupiter, Saturn, and brown dwarfs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-826
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1992


  • Equation of state
  • Molecular processes
  • Planets and satellites: individual (Jupiter, Saturn)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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