Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System and is named after the Roman king of gods.
Jupiter's mass is more than the mass of the rest of the planets in the Solar System put together.
Following a large orbit five times farther from the Sun than the Earth,
Jupiter makes one rotation about every 12 years.
However, it turns around on its axis very fast, creating a short day for Jupiter and giving the planet
a slightly oval shape. Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the sky
(after the Sun, Moon, Venus and sometimes Mars) and a spectacular planet for observation.
Read below to learn more about the Jovian atmosphere, interior, exploration, moons and rings of Jupiter.
Jupiter has a giant atmosphere, which consists mainly of the lightest chemical elements,
, water and sulfur
which give color to the atmosphere bands.
You can see the light white and yellowish bands, called zones, and the dark reddish brown bands,
called belts, through small telescopes or binoculars.
Tremendous winds with speeds greater than 400 miles per hour blow in opposite directions in
neighboring bands creating hurricanes within the border between the bands.
Jupiter, like the rest of the giant gas planets
, has no solid surface under its thick atmosphere.
However, because of high pressure, hydrogen
reaches the liquid state around 10,000 miles below
the top layer of the atmosphere
. Moving towards the core, the pressure increases so much that
hydrogen reaches the metallic state. Scientists think that Jupiter has a relatively small rocky or
metallic core with a mass 10 to 15 times greater than the Earth's.
Spacecraft missions have revealed interesting facts about this giant planet and its satellites.
Jupiter was first visited by Pioneer 10
in 1972 and 1973.
Later in the late 1970s, Voyager 1
passed around Jupiter.
However, only Galileo's mission was fully devoted to the exploration of Jupiter.
This craft sent back valuable information about the planet's ice covered satellites Europa
It took amazing pictures of Io's active volcanoes.
Galileo also sent a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere to gather atmospheric data and record Jupiter's powerful thunderstorms.
Eventually, when Galileo ran low on fuel in 2003, scientists intentionally crashed it into the atmosphere
to avoid contaminating Jupiter's satellites or creating more space junk.
According to recent discoveries Jupiter has 63 satellites, however only 16 of them are considerably large.
also registered a faint ring system around the planet, which is difficult to
detect with Earth based telescopes.
A planetary "ring" is made up of small particles of dust or ice which orbit a planet.
These particles are sometimes left over from the formation of the planet.
They were too small, or too close to the planet, to stick together and form a solid satellite.
Instead, they spread out into a ring, like a hula hoop, which surrounds the planet.
From studying the images of Jupiter's rings, scientists now know that the rings are also made up of particles
which have been thrown off of the tiny inner satellites. The main ring is made up of dust from Adrastea
, and the outer gossamer rings come from Thebe
In 1994, astronomers were able to observe a very rare and spectacular astronomical event:
the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
passed close to Jupiter and was split into 21 pieces by
The impacts of these large fragments caused great explosions.
Debris from these explosive impacts formed a dark haze in Jupiter's atmosphere.
If a similar comet collision occurred with the Earth, it could create a dark haze that might block
sunlight killing most or all life on Earth.