……that sticks out like a sore thumb in the solar system.
And that we know very little about.
Jupiter’s largest moons ( Callisto, Europa,Ganymede, Io) were discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. Prior to that, Jupiter has always been visible to ancient astronomers, who aptly named it after the King of Gods in Roman Mythology. Flash forward 400 years later, we sent him a satellite wife.The Juno mission is set to observe Jupiter for the next year and a half and to demystify it. However, there are plenty of things we do know about the Gas Titan and this article is for the purpose of recapping them. Sooooo, leggo.
Jupiter is HUGE……….
….but despite its massive size it has an unusually fast spin. One day on Jupiter is ten hours long! Jupiter 318 times the size of planet Earth and you can fit 1,321 blue-green planets inside it. In fact, Jupiter is so big that there is a unit of measure known as Jupiter Mass and it is just a little smaller than the smallest brown dwarf. It has a mass that is 300 times that of Earth and is 11 times wider than it. You could fit all the planets in the solar system and there would still be room to spare!
Jupiter Has Stripes On Its Surface……..
……except that it doesn’t. The dark and light stripes that you see are in fact clouds.The light stripes are called zones and the dark stripes are called belts and they move in the opposite direction. Jupiter is covered with a very thick layer of clouds. This cloud layer is comprised of ammonia crystals.The light coloured zones are formed as a result of convection.The darker coloured belts were formerly zones that sunk to the side and got discoloured as a result of exposure to UV rays. Its atmosphere consists of ammonia and methane and other toxic gases. The atmosphere is so volatile and dense that the Galileo Probe that was flown into the planet vaporized in an hour. The high pressure of the planet is responsible for the liquefying of metallic hydrogen, which is what makes up its mantle.
The Great Red Spot Looks Pretty……..
……but is in fact, a hurricane. And that hurricane is big enough to contain two or three of our own planet.The Spot is technically called an anti-cyclone and it moves at 500 kmph. The Spot is big enough to be viewed from Earth ( it was first viewed in the 17th century). Owing to Jupiter’s violent atmosphere and rapid spin, the Spot keeps circulating. The Red vortex rotates counter-clockwise and is actually getting smaller.
Jupiter Has Rings!
That’s right, Saturn. Move over.
Jupiter Is Not A Failed Star.
Watch Phil Plait explain it in a Crash Course Astronomy episode on Jupiter.