Jupiter, the most massive planet of the solar system and the fifth in distance from the Sun. It is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Only the Moon, Venus, and sometimes Mars are more brilliant. Jupiter is designated by the symbol ♃.
Ancient astronomers named the planet Jupiter for the Roman ruler of the gods and heavens (also known as Jove). They had no idea of the planet’s true dimensions, but the name is appropriate. As Jupiter is larger than all the other planets combined. It takes nearly 12 Earth years to orbit the Sun, and it rotates once about every 10 hours, more than twice as fast as Earth.
Its colorful cloud bands can be seen with even a small telescope. It has a narrow system of rings and 79 known moons, one larger than the planet Mercury and three larger than Earth’s Moon. Some astronomers speculate that Jupiter’s moon Europa may be hiding an ocean of warm water. Possibly even some kind of life—beneath an icy crust.
Read more about planet Jupiter and its related facts by Pritish Halder below:
Jupiter’s appearance is a tapestry of colorful cloud bands and spots. The gas planet likely has three distinct cloud layers in its “skies” that, taken together, span about 44 miles. The top cloud is probably made of ammonia ice. While the middle layer is likely made of ammonium hydrosulfide crystals. The innermost layer may be made of water ice and vapor.
The vivid colors you see in thick bands across Jupiter may be plumes of sulfur and phosphorus. Containing gases rising from the planet’s warmer interior. Jupiter’s fast rotation – spinning once every 10 hours – creates strong jet streams. It helps separating its clouds into dark belts and bright zones across long stretches.
With no solid surface to slow them down, Jupiter’s spots can persist for many years. Jupiter is swept by over a dozen prevailing winds, some reaching up to 335 miles per hour at the equator. The Great Red Spot, a swirling oval of clouds twice as wide as Earth. It has been observed on the giant planet for more than 300 years. More recently, three smaller ovals merged to form the Little Red Spot, about half the size of its larger cousin.
Findings from NASA’s Juno probe released in October 2021 provide a fuller picture of what’s going on below those clouds. Data from Juno shows that Jupiter’s cyclones are warmer on top, with lower atmospheric densities. While they are colder at the bottom, with higher densities. Anticyclones, which rotate in the opposite direction, are colder at the top but warmer at the bottom.
The findings also indicate these storms are far taller than expected. With some extending 60 miles (100 kilometers) below the cloud tops and others. Including the Great Red Spot, extending over 200 miles (350 kilometers). This surprising discovery demonstrates that the vortices cover regions beyond those where water condenses and clouds form, below the depth where sunlight warms the atmosphere.
The height and size of the Great Red Spot mean the concentration of atmospheric mass within the storm. Potentially could be detectable by instruments studying Jupiter’s gravity field. Two close Juno flybys over Jupiter’s most famous spot provided the opportunity to search for the storm’s gravity signature and complement the other results on its depth.
With their gravity data, the Juno team was able to constrain the extent of the Great Red Spot. Its about to a depth of about 300 miles (500 kilometers) below the cloud tops.
Belts and Zones In addition to cyclones and anticyclones. Jupiter is known for its distinctive belts and zones – white and reddish bands of clouds that wrap around the planet. Strong east-west winds moving in opposite directions separate the bands. Juno previously discovered that these winds, or jet streams, reach depths of about 2,000 miles (roughly 3,200 kilometers). Researchers are still trying to solve the mystery of how the jet streams form. Data collected by Juno during multiple passes reveal one possible clue. That the atmosphere’s ammonia gas travels up and down in remarkable alignment with the observed jet streams.
Juno’s data also shows that the belts and zones undergo a transition around 40 miles beneath Jupiter’s water clouds. At shallow depths, Jupiter’s belts are brighter in microwave light than the neighboring zones. But at deeper levels, below the water clouds, the opposite is true – which reveals a similarity to our oceans.
Polar Cyclones Juno previously discovered polygonal arrangements of giant cyclonic storms at both of Jupiter’s poles. Eight arranged in an octagonal pattern in the north and five arranged in a pentagonal pattern in the south. Over time, mission scientists determined these atmospheric phenomena are extremely resilient, remaining in the same location.
Juno data also indicates that, like hurricanes on Earth, these cyclones want to move poleward, but cyclones located at the center of each pole push them back. This balance explains where the cyclones reside and the different numbers at each pole.
The Jovian magnetosphere is the region of space influenced by Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field. It balloons 600,000 to 2 million miles toward the Sun. It tapers into a tadpole-shaped tail extending more than 600 million miles (1 billion kilometers) behind Jupiter, as far as Saturn’s orbit. Jupiter’s enormous magnetic field is 16 to 54 times as powerful as that of the Earth. It rotates with the planet and sweeps up particles that have an electric charge. Near the planet, the magnetic field traps swarms of charged particles and accelerates them to very high energies. It helps creating intense radiation that bombards the innermost moons and can damage spacecraft.
Jupiter’s magnetic field also causes some of the solar system’s most spectacular aurorae at the planet’s poles.
Potential for Life
Jupiter’s environment is probably not conducive to life as we know it. The temperatures, pressures, materials that characterize this planet are most likely too extreme and volatile for organisms to adapt to.
While planet Jupiter is an unlikely place for living things to take hold, the same is not true of some of its many moons. Europa is one of the likeliest places to find life elsewhere in our solar system. There is evidence of a vast ocean just beneath its icy crust, where life could possibly be supported.
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