Jove, Jowisz, the gas planet, the stormy planet, whatever you call it, these are all names for the biggest planet in our solar system, the fifth planet from the sun, Jupiter. The Romans named this planet after their god of the sky and thunder. This planet has 318 times as much mass as the earth, and its diameter is 11 times the earth’s diameter. Since this planet is the fastest spinning (rotates in less than 10 hours), it is flattened at the poles and it is bulged at its equator. One Jovian year (the time it takes to orbit the sun), take 11.9 earth years!
Jupiter is a gas planet with a possible chance of a core. On the outside of Jupiter, what we can see, is its atmosphere. Jupiter’s atmosphere is layered. It contains hydrogen, helium (a lot like the sun’s atmosphere), gasses, and clouds. The stripes on the surface are these gasses being thrown around. Under that, there are two separate layers of hydrogen. Scientists are looking for a core the size of the earth under these two layers but haven’t found it yet.
If you look at Jupiter, you will see there are many “dots” and “spots”. These might look like nothing from where we are, but in reality these are HUGE storms and hurricanes. One of the best known is the Great Red Spot. Just this storm alone is two to three times as wide as Earth (12,500 mi in diameter!). With winds up to 560 miles per hour, this hurricane has been observed for over 300 years. In 2000, three MUCH smaller spots smashed into each other to form a storm about ½ the size as the Great Red Spot. You might hear it be called the “Little Red Spot”, as it is usually known, or “Red Jr.”, or maybe even the scientific name “Oval BA”. Dr. Glenn Orton, a scientist studying these spots, likes to call it “the-not-so-Great-Red-Spot”.
Saturn is planet known for having an amazing and complex ring system, but did you know Jupiter has rings too? In 1979, Voyager 1 discovered Jupiter’s ring system. Jupiter has three rings. Galileo spacecraft suggested that these rings are formed when meteoroids hit Jupiter’s tiny closest moons.
Jupiter is a VERY important planet. Not only does is it the biggest planet in our solar system, but it keeps thousands of minor planets in their orbits. There is a family of minor planets (or asteroids) in the same plane as Jupiter. These are called Trojan asteroids. Scientists have divided these into two groups the “Greeks” and the “Trojans”. The “Greeks” come before Jupiter and the “Trojans” follow Jupiter. These asteroids are as far away from Jupiter as they are from the sun; because of this they stay and will continue to stay in the positions they are in because the gravitational pull from Jupiter and the sun are the same.
On Earth we have one moon to look at during the night. Can you imagine looking at 50 or 60 moons at night? If we lived on Jupiter, that’s what we would see! Jupiter has 50 definite moons. There are 17 moons scientists are still examining to make sure that they are moons. Some are smaller than 1.5...