|one of the four planets in our solar system that are composed chiefly of hydrogen and helium, namely Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune|
|[C20: coined by James Blish (1921--75), US science fiction writer]|
A large, massive, low-density planet composed primarily of hydrogen, helium, methane, and ammonia in either gaseous or liquid state. Gas giants have swirling atmospheres primarily of hydrogen and helium, with no well-defined planetary surface; they are assumed to have rocky cores. They are also characterized by ring systems, although only Saturn's is readily visible from Earth. Our solar system contains four gas giants: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The majority of extrasolar planets discovered so far are the size of the solar system's gas giants, although they orbit their stars much more closely and may differ in composition from ours. Also called Jovian planet. Compare terrestrial planet.