Jupiter is the solar system ‘s largest planet, and the fifth out from the Sun. It is two and a half times more massive than any of the other planets together in the solar system. It is mainly produced from gas, and is thus regarded as a “gas giant.”

Facts About Jupiter

Facts About Jupiter
Image: Britannica

Jupiter had been accurately named after the king of the gods. It is massive, has a powerful magnetic field and more moons in the Solar System than any other planet. While astronomers have understood this since ancient times, the telescope ‘s discovery and the rise of scientific astronomy have taught us so much about this gas giant. In short, there are endless fascinating things about this gas giant about which other people actually do not know. Here are a few facts: 

1. The Massive Size

Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System, it’s no surprise. But the definition does not really do justice to this. For one, Jupiter’s mass is 318 times as massive as the Earth. In fact, Jupiter is 2.5 times more massive than all other planets together inside the Solar System. 

If Jupiter were to get massive even more, it would simply become smaller. Indeed, the extra mass would make the planet denser, which would allow it to begin drawing it in on itself. Astronomers estimate that Jupiter might end up 4 times its current mass, and remain about the same size as before.

2. Jupiter has the Shortest Days

The planet rotates very rapidly and Jupiter turns on its axis about every 9 hours and 55 minutes. It’s also this rapid rotation that induces the planet’s flattening effect, which is why it has an oblate form.

3. Jupiter is the Fastest Spinning Planet

Jupiter sure moves fast, for all its size and mass. In fact, Jupiter takes approximately 10 hours to complete a full rotation on its axis with a rotational velocity of 12.6 km / s (~7.45 m / s) or 45.300 km / h (28.148 mph.). And because it’s rotating so hard, the planet has spread out a little at the poles and is bubbling at its equator.

In addition, points on the equator of Jupiter are more than 4,600 km farther than the poles from the centre. Or to put it another way, the polar radius of the planet measures 66,854 ± 10 km (or 10,517 km that of the Earth), while its diameter at the equator is 71,492 ± 4 km (or 11,209 km that of the Earth).

4. Jupiter has been visited 7 times by spacecraft

Those were Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo, Cassini, Ulysses and the New Horizons mission. Another spacecraft, Juno, was scheduled to arrive sometime around July 2016 at Jupiter. Potential observations are also expected to concentrate on Jupiter’s Jovian moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – and their potential oceans on the subsoil.

5. Jupiter Can Never Become a Star

Astronomers call Jupiter a failing star but this is not a sufficient explanation. Although Jupiter, like a star, is rich in hydrogen and helium, it is clear that Jupiter does not have nearly enough mass to cause a fusion reaction in its core. That is how stars produce electricity, fusing atoms of hydrogen together under intense heat and pressure to create helium, producing light and heat in the process. 

It is possible due to their immense gravity. In Jupiter to spark a cycle of nuclear fusion to become a star, its current mass will require more than 70 times more. If you could smash together hundreds of Jupiter, you could get a chance to create a new star. But Jupiter, meanwhile, will remain a large gas giant with no hopes of being a star.

6. Thick Clouds

That’s right, just about 50 km thick are all those lovely whirling clouds and storms that you see on Jupiter. They are composed of crystals of ammonia, breaking down into two separate cloud sheets. The darker substance is believed to be chemicals pulled out from deeper within Jupiter, and as they interact with sunlight, they change colour. Yet that is all hydrogen and helium, all the way down below those clouds. 

7. Jupiter has the largest moon

The Ganymede moon of Jupiter is the biggest moon in the solar system. The moons of Jupiter are also called the Jovian satellites, the largest of which are Ganymede, Callisto Io and Europa. Ganymede extends 5,268 km long, making it larger than the Mercury satellite.

8. The Great Red Spot

One of its most familiar features is The Great Red Spot on Jupiter. The intense anticyclonic hurricane, situated south of the equator, ranges between a diameter of 24,000 km and an elevation of 12–14,000 km. As such, it is sufficiently large to contain two or three planets the size of the Earth. So the spot has been around for at least 350 years since the 17th century.

Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini first reported The Great Red Spot in 1665. By the twentieth century, astronomers started to theorize it was a storm produced by the tumultuous and fast-moving atmosphere of Jupiter. The Voyager 1 spacecraft confirmed these hypotheses, which observed the Giant Red Spot up close during its planetary flyby in March of 1979.

9. Ring System

Jupiter has a system of thin rings. Its rings consist mainly of dust particles which are ejected during impacts from incoming comets and asteroids from some of the smaller worlds of Jupiter. The ring system starts about 92,000 kilometres above the cloud tops of Jupiter and continues to over 225,000 kilometres from the planet.  Those are between 2000 and 12500 km dense.

10. Strong Magnetic Field

Indeed, compasses will work on Jupiter. This is because it has the greatest magnetic field than other planets in the solar system. The magnetic field of Jupiter is 14 times stronger than that of Earth Astronomers think that the magnetic field is generated within the liquid metallic hydrogen core by the eddy currents – i.e. swirling movements of conductive materials. 

11. Jupiter has 67 Moons

Jupiter has a 67 verified and labelled satellite. However, the planet is predicted to have over 200 orbiting natural satellites. Nearly all of them have a diameter of fewer than 10 kilometres and were discovered only after 1975 when the first spacecraft (Pioneer 10) landed at Jupiter.

But it also has four major moons, known collectively as the Galilean Moons (after their Galileo Galilei discovery). These are Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto in order of distance. These moons are among the largest in the Solar System, the largest being Ganymede, measuring 5262 km in diameter.