Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Jupiter got its name from the Roman God of Mythology, the leader of all gods. The Roman alike of Zeus. The planet has also been known since the Babylonian times and they also thought of it as their god Marduk. Jupiter has long been linked with the Zodiac. It takes nearly 12 years to make a complete orbit around the sun and it spends about one year in each constellation. The mass of Jupiter is 318 times the mass of earth. Jupiter has 2.5 times the mass of all the planets in the Solar System. Jupiter is also the fastest spinning planet in the solar system. The planet only takes 9 hours and 50 minutes to complete a full rotation on its axis. Because it is spinning so rapidly, the planet has compressed out a little and is swelling at its equator.
The bright colors in the clouds of Jupiter are caused by complex interactions of various simple gases. The distant bands are created by high speed winds, with adjacent winds blowing in opposite directions. Among the bands, there are vortices where wind speeds reach over 400 miles per hour. The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a gigantic storm. Astronomers think that spot is Red because the storm pulls up darker compounds from deep down in the atmosphere. Once brought to the surface, these compounds turn Brown and Red when exposed to sunlight. The Great Red Spot is shrinking and will eventually disappear, but the question is when? Well, there is no clear answer, it can disappear tomorrow or in a hundred years more. Yet, even at its present size, about 12,000 by 25,000 kilometers, it’s big enough to hold two Earths.
Jupiter is about 90% hydrogen and 10% helium with traces of Methane, Water and Ammonia. This composition of Jupiter is very close to the composition of the Primordial Solar Nebula from which the entire solar system was formed. The gravity of Jupiter is so intense, it can affect the whole solar system. Astronomers think the Jupiter’s gravity pushed around the Planetoids during the formation of the Solar System. Some objects were sent colliding into the other planets, or the sun, and others were stopped from forming at all. In 1990’s Jupiter’s gravity tore apart Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into several pieces. These objects were then dragged into Jupiter between July 16th and 22nd, 1994, creating spectacular shiners on the surface of the Jupiter. This was the first observed collision of two Solar System bodies. The collision generated enormous Seismic Waves.
To date Jupiter has more than 65 known moons. One of its moons, Ganymede, is the largest satellite in the solar system, measuring 5262 kilometers across. Ganymede is even larger than Mercury. Jupiter has rings system and is composed of an Inner Halo, a Main Ring and a Gossamer Ring. These rings are composed of dust particles kicked up as Interplanetary Meteoroids smash into Jupiter’s four small inner moons. Magnetosphere of Jupiter is very important and special because it is the biggest in the entire Solar System. Sun can easily fit inside the Magnetosphere of Jupiter. It also stretches all the way to Saturn. If seen at night, it would be as big in the sky as The Full Moon. One last thing, Jupiter is a Gas Giant so it has no Solid surface.
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