Jupiter, the largest gas giant planet, and the most massive planet in our solar system. It is more than twice in size as all other planets put together, with a mass of one-thousandth that of the Sun, and compare to earth its mass is 1300 times larger than it. It is fifth in line from the Sun following the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
It is named after the Roman god Jupiter. The stripes and swirls of Jupiter are actually cold, and it has windy clouds of ammonia and water having a floating atmosphere of Hydrogen and Helium gas. Its ideal Great Red Spot(GRS) is being the biggest hurricane that we know of. Jupiter has no solid surface, it also has several rings, but unlike Saturn’s famous ring, it is fainter and is made up of dust rather than ice.
To know more about Saturn. Check out our post on Saturn.
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It is the third brightest object in the night sky after Moon and Venus and it is visible with the naked eye. It is bright enough that its reflected light can cast a shadow on the earth. It is an oblate-spheroid and has well-known 79 Moons including four Galilean moons (Ganymede, Europa, Io and, Callisto).
Surface and Composition
Unlike Earth, Jupiter does not have a true solid surface. It is mostly made of tiny dust particles. The planet is primarily made up of swirling gas and liquid. There is no solid surface to land spacecraft on. Deep inside the planet extreme pressure and temperature are so destructive, and they can easily crush, melt and vaporize the spacecraft trying to fly into the planet.
The planet has a similar composition to that of the Sun. It consists of mostly Hydrogen (88-92%) and Helium gas (8-12%) by percent volume of a gas molecule. Its atmosphere contains 75% Hydrogen and 24% of Helium by mass. The atmosphere also contains some other compounds like carbo, ethane, Hydrogen-Sulfide, neon, Oxygen, etc. Benzene and hydrocarbon were also found with help of Infrared and Ultraviolet measurement. The internal structure of Jupiter contains denser material by mass roughly Hydrogen-71%, Helium-24%, and the rest 5% contains other materials.
Mass, Size, and Distance
Its mass is 318 times massive than Earth’s (mass-1.8982×10^27 kg). Compared to the Sun its mass is just 0.001 times the mass of the sun. If we combined all other planets together in the solar system then, Jupiter’s mass would be 2.5 times more massive. It is so massive, that the barycenter with the Sun lies above the Sun’s surface at about solar radii 1.068 from the center of the Sun.
Jupiter is almost 11 times wider than the planet Earth in diameter, it has a radius of 43,440.7 miles (That is 69,111 in km). This planet is about 1/10th radius of the Sun.
Jupiter is located at 5.2 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun, and from the Earth, its distance varies from 4.2 AU to 6.2 AU. It takes 43 light minutes to reach its surface from the Sun. One astronomical unit is the distance from Sun to the Earth.
Orbit and Rotation and Revolution
Technically Jupiter doesn’t orbit the Sun, because it is the only planet in our solar whose Barycenter lies outside the surface of the sun, and it is because of its massiveness.
The Equator of Jupiter is tilted with respect to its orbital path by 3 degrees. It spins nearly upright, that is why, it doesn’t experience extreme climate change as the other planets do(like Earth, Mars, and Venus, etc).
Jupiter is the second-fastest rotating object in our solar system after Sun and it rotates fastest all among the planets in our solar system. It takes only 9 hours 56 minutes (~10 hours) to complete one rotation that makes the shortest day in our Solar system and this creates Equatorial Bulges, resulting in an oblate spheroid shape. This implies that the diameter of Jupiter at the Equator is greater than its poles, and it can be easily seen by an Earth-based amateur telescope. The diameter at the Equator is 9275 km (5763 miles) longer than its poles.
Jupiter has the 4th slowest revolution time out of all other planets in the solar system. It takes 4333 earth days (i.e. 12 Earth years) to complete one revolution around the Sun.
The appearance of Jupiter is a tapestry of colorful cloud bands & spots. It has three distinct cloud layers, spread over a span of 44 miles (71 km). The top, middle and bottom layer of cloud is made of Ammonium sulfide, Hydrosulfide and the innermost layer is water ice & vapor respectively. The clouds are located on tropopause, and these are arranged into bands.
Jupiter’s fast rotation creates a strong jets stream. Maybe, Jupiter Plumes of Phosphorus and Sulfur contains gas, which rises from the planet’s warmer interior. Due to the lack of a solid surface, Jupiter rotates so fast. The Great Red Spot (GRS) of Jupiter swirling oval of clouds, is twice as wide as the planet Earth.
The magnetic field range of Jupiter is from 4.2 Gausses (0.4 Tesla), at Equator 10-14 Gauss (1 to 1.4 Tesla). That makes the second strongest magnetic field in the solar system after the Sun. It has a 16 to 54 times stronger Magnetic Field than the Earth.
Jupiter’s magnetosphere is so huge that influenced the Jovian magnetosphere in the region of space. It balloons about 1 to 3 million kilometers towards the Sun, which is 7 to 21 times the diameter of the planet itself. Its magnetic field can cause the most amazing Aurorae at the poles of the planets of our Solar system.