Jupiter comes fifth in terms of proximity to the Sun. It holds the title of being the largest planet in the solar system being twice as massive as the combination of all the other planets in the solar system. The stripes and swirls that we can observe on the planet are actually windy, cold clouds of ice, water, and ammonia, floating in a thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium gases. The famous Great Red Spot of Jupiter is a humongous storm that has a diameter larger than Earth that has continued to fume for a few hundred years.
|Rotation time-period||10 hours|
|Revolution time-period||11.86 Earth Years|
|Distance from the Sun||778,330,000 km|
|Mass||1.898 × 10^27 kg (317.8 M⊕)|
|Surface Temperature||-145 degrees Celsius|
|Equatorial rotation velocity||12.6 km/s (7.8 mi/s; 45,000 km/h)|
Structure of Jupiter
In terms of composition, Jupiter is comparable to the Sun. The planet is built up of mostly hydrogen and helium. As we dive deep into the planet’s atmosphere, temperature, and pressure and increase, compressing the hydrogen gas present into a liquid. This produces the largest ocean in the entire solar system and is made up of hydrogen.
According to scientists, at great depths of about halfway to the planet’s center, the pressure inside becomes so enormous that hydrogen electrons are squeezed off, making the compressed liquid electrically conducting like a metal. In addition to this, the fast rotation of the planet is assumed to fuel electrical currents here, producing the powerful magnetic field of the planets.
At present, it is uncertain if, deep down the surface, the planet has a central core of solid material like metal or a thick, super-hot, and dense molten liquid. It is estimated that the temperatures inside could be up to 50,000 degrees Celsius or 90,032 degrees Fahrenheit. The core is assumed to primarily comprise iron and silicate minerals.
The planet’s formation took place about 4.5 billion years ago, along with all the planets of the Solar system. This enormous planet is formed of swirling dust and gases and has more than twice the combined matter of all the other planets in the solar system. Jupiter has a composition similar to a star. If it grew massive enough, it would have been ignited.
Jupiter being a gas giant, doesn’t actually have a surface. The planet is build of mostly swirling gases liquids and gases. It is not possible for a spacecraft to land on Jupiter, and at the same time, the spacecraft would not be able to fly across unscathed either. This happens because the extreme temperature and pressure inside the planet melt/burn and vaporize spacecraft, trying to fly through the planet.
Jupiter appears as a huge grey sphere with colorful bands, spots, and surface rings. The gas giant has three distinct cloud layers that extend over 71 kilometers or 44 miles. The topmost layer of clouds is composed of ammonia ice, while the middle cloud layer is formed of ammonium hydrosulfide crystals. The lowest cloud layer is assumed to be comprised of vapor, water, and ice.
The range of colors visible in thick bands across the planet is plumes of phosphorus and sulfur gases rising from its warm interior. The fast rotation speed of the planet, spinning every 10 hours, causes powerful jet streams, that separates its clouds into bright and dark belts across long stretches in the sky.
The planet lacks a solid platform, so there is no obstruction to slow down the winds. Therefore, the spots and bands can remain for years along with a dozen prevailing winds having a speed of 539 kilometers per hour or miles per hour at the equator. The Great Red Spot is an example of such a collection of clouds twice as massive as Earth, swirling for 300 plus years. Three smaller ovals have been observed to merge for forming the giant Little Red Spot, having half the size of the former.
Jupiter’s immensely powerful magnetic field influences a region of space called the Jovian magnetosphere. This enormous magnetic field is estimated to be 16 to 54 times more powerful than the magnetic field of the Earth. This field rotates along with the planet sweeping up particles of dust and gases that posses an electric charge. These charged particles are then accelerated to very high energies producing intense radiations that bombard the moons and damage spacecraft.
Jupiter’s magnetic field also forms some of the most spectacular aurorae of our Solar system.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft discovered Jupiter’s rings in 1979. This was a surprising discovery as the rings (made of small dark particles) are extremely difficult to see. These rings can be observed only when the particles are back-lit by the Sun. According to the information obtained from the Galileo spacecraft, the ring system of the planet may be created by the dust and gases kicked up when interplanetary meteoroids or asteroids smash into the small inner moons of the giant planet.
Jupiter has four large moons and several smaller moons, forming a sort of miniature solar system. The planet has 53 confirmed moons and 26 provisional moons in the line of confirmation of a discovery. These moons are named – Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede.
Io is at present the most volcanically active body present in our Solar system.
Ganymede is by far the largest moon in the Solar system, having a size larger than the planet Mercury.
Callisto differs from the other moons because of negligible surface craters. This indicates a small degree of current surface activity on the moon.
Europa houses a liquid-water ocean beneath its frozen crust that may support life.
Potential for Life
The environment of Jupiter is not suitable for life. The extreme temperatures, pressure, frequent meteoroid strikes, and lack of a solid surface makes this planet unsuitable for organisms to adapt. However, some of Jupiter’s moons, like Europa, show signs of the possibility of life there.
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