Most of us know that Jupiter is the largest planet of the solar system. Well, there’s more to Jupiter than the size alone and we’ll prove that to you with these mind-blowing facts!
Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in the Solar system
Jupiter is the third brightest thing in the night sky after Venus and our Moon. It is bright and large enough to be observed with the naked eye or with the aid of a pair of binoculars. It is one of the five planets that can be seen with the unaided eye. The other four being Saturn, Mercury, Mars, and Venus.
Jupiter’s unusual motion
Jupiter completes one rotation around its own axis in around 10 hours, making it the fastest spinning planet in our entire solar system. Its spin is so fast, that it flattens towards the poles and bulges outwards from the equator.
Although it rotates the fastest around its own axis, it orbits the sun pretty slowly and completes its one rotation around the sun in almost 12 Earth years. In other words, one year on Jupiter lasts for 12 Earth years.
Jupiter is a gas giant
Jupiter is composed of hydrogen and helium, so it has no confirmed solid surface.
Jupiter has the most moons, with 67 of them confirmed. While scientists speculate that it may have 200 of them. The planet’s largest moon is Ganymede, one of the four “Galilean moons” discovered by Galileo Galilei. It is also the largest moon in our solar system. The rest of the moons are classified into two separate categories: inner moons and the outer moons. Check out our separate gallery about the other moons in the solar system.
What is the red spot?
That spot is commonly called the “Great Red Spot” — a huge, swirling storm that has raged for at least 350 years. The storm is so enormous that about three Earths could fit inside it. The strong winds can go as fast as 400 miles an hour. This goes beyond the scope of the hurricane scale used to categorize giant storms, but an extrapolation of this scale would rank this storm as a category 12.
When viewed through a telescope, Jupiter seems to be covered with clouds of different colors, most noticeable of them is the Great Red Spot. Over three centuries of being observed, the intensity of the color has fluctuated to different degrees. It has also been shrinking ever since it was first observed. It has shrunk down to half its original size since the last one hundred years.
Has any spacecraft visited Jupiter?
So far there are a total of nine spacecraft which have done missions on Jupiter: Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Galileo, Cassini, Ulysses, New Horizons and Juno.
Not surprisingly, Jupiter’s magnetosphere is the biggest in the solar system, with its magnetic field being 20 times more powerful compared to Earth’s.
The first recorded sighting of Jupiter
It was the ancient Babylonians who first spotted Jupiter around 7th or 8th BC. That’s almost 3000 years ago. They employed advanced mathematical and geometrical skills to help them track its movements across the night sky.
Jupiter’s unique cloud layer
Jupiter’s upper atmosphere is split into zones and cloud belts, which are chiefly composed of ammonia crystals, sulfur, and a combination of the two. The atmosphere starts off as thin and cold on the outside and gradually becomes hotter and thicker as you get closer to the surface. It turns into a thick fog and soon after that into liquid under extreme pressure. The surface of Jupiter is speculated to be a vast ocean of liquid hydrogen.
Does Jupiter have seasons?
Jupiter doesn’t experience seasonal changes, unlike Earth and Mars, because it has very small axial tilt — only 3.13 degrees.
The strongest gravity
The gravity on Jupiter is the strongest in our solar system. It’s so strong, in fact, that you would weigh three times as much on Jupiter’s surface than you do on Earth.
Its strong gravitational field draws smaller celestial bodies like comets, meteorites, and asteroids. Shoemaker-Levy 9 — a comet that was headed to Earth in 1994 and would have collided with our planet if it wasn’t for Jupiter’s strong gravitational field. Jupiter’s gravity drew the comet towards the planet and it eventually crashed into Jupiter’s surface instead of Earth’s.
A mysterious planet
The formation of this gas giant is a confounding mystery to astronomers. Speculation suggests that Jupiter might be the oldest planet in our solar system. Solving the mystery of its origin is essentially key to understanding the origin of our solar system itself.
Another mystery surrounding Jupiter is the question of whether this planet has a solid core. Astronomers have reason to believe that below its vast liquid hydrogen ocean, hydrogen solidifies from liquid to metal state. But this is all guesswork, in absence of any concrete evidence.
Another speculation suggests that its core might actually be diamond. The carbon in the center of the planet might be crystallized into solid diamond under enormous pressure and temperature.
Neon is a noble gas used in neon signs. Jupiter contains a sizable amount of this gas. Evidence from satellite data shows that only a tiny amount of this gas resides in the upper atmosphere. It descends towards the core because its lighter than helium and hydrogen, which make large part of the atmosphere. When it reaches towards the liquid hydrogen ocean, Jupiter’s immense pressure liquifies the gas and it rains down. And like the bright neon signs, the raindrops would be bright red in color. This view of a neon-colored shower might be unique only to Jupiter.
A failed star
Jupiter is referred to as a “failed star”. Like stars, it contains helium and hydrogen as its major constituents but falls short of the size criteria. If it was only 80 times larger than it is, its mass would have been enough to trigger fusion – the process which powers a star.
Jupiter has rings
Like Saturn and Uranus, Jupiter also has rings but they are far less conspicuous than its counterparts. It is believed that these rings are formed because of the debris ejected from its moons due to meteor showers. New meteor impacts release new debris into the rings as it’s consumed by Jupiter.