We’ve left the inner plants behind and moved on, this time to Jupiter. This massive gas giant is the first of the outer planets and one of the last that we can spot from the surface of our little blue marble. Here are some interesting facts about Jupiter that you need to know.
Facts About Jupiter
Here are 10 interesting planet Jupiter facts to know about this giant celestial being.
1. It Gets Its Name From the King of the Gods
Jupiter gets its name from the king of the Roman gods, also known as Zeus in Greek mythology. One of our probes currently sending back pictures of the gas giant is named Juno after Jupiter’s wife.
2. It’s the Largest Planet in the Solar System
You can combine all the other planets in the solar system, and Jupiter is still 2.5 times more massive than all of them.
3. If It Got Any Bigger, It Would Shrink
Of all the planet Jupiter facts, this one is a doozy. The planet is enormous, but if it got any bigger, the additional mass would cause it to start collapsing in on itself. It would take a lot of extra weight to make it get smaller than it is now. Scientists estimate that it could quadruple its mass and remain the same size.
4. We Use It to Measure Mass
One Jovian mass equals the mass of the planet Jupiter or 2.5 times the rest of the planets in the solar system combined. It’s a standard measurement astronomers can use to describe similarly sized celestial bodies.
5. It Will Never Become a Star
Despite what happened in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “2010: Odyssey Two,” the gas giant doesn’t possess enough mass to ignite and become a second star. It would need to be roughly 80 times more massive than it is to reach that critical ignition point — and we don’t have Clarke’s aliens helping us out.
6. It Proved That Earth Isn’t the Center of the Universe
In 1610, Galileo spotted the first four Jovian moons. It was the first proof of celestial bodies orbiting something other than Earth. It reinforced Copernicus’s model of the solar system with all of the planets orbiting the sun instead of treating the Earth like the center of the universe.
7. It Has the Shortest Day in the Solar System
Its year might take nearly 12 of ours, but Jupiter’s day is only 9 hours and 55 minutes. This is the shortest day in the solar system.
8. It Has an Impressive Number of Moons
Jupiter has 79 moons orbiting it and used to hold the title of the planet with the most in the solar system. As of 2020, that title belongs to Saturn with 82 natural satellites.
9. It Is Home to One of the Largest Storms in the Solar System
Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a massive storm. It’s so large that you could fit three of our planets inside it and have room to spare. It’s been churning on the Jovian surface for at least 150 years.
10. It Has Faint Rings
While they aren’t as prominent as those around Saturn, Jupiter has some faint rings. They likely consist of captured material ejected when its moons collide with one another.
What Will Scientists Discover Next?
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Jupiter Properties and Information
- Location in solar system: Fifth from the sun, first of the outer planets
- Distance from sun: 484 million miles or 5.2 AU
- Composition: Primarily hydrogen and helium Size: Radius of 43,440.7 miles
- Surface: No actual surface, though it may have a solid core
- Structure: Similar to the sun — hydrogen and helium. May have liquid helium oceans instead of water.
- Color: Orange, white, brown, red
- Atmosphere: Hydrogen and helium with other trace elements
- Moons: 79, though many may be captured asteroids
- Temperature: Ranges from -145 C in the clouds to upward of 24,000 C at the core
- Orbital period: 11.86 Earth years
- Rotation period: Nine hours, 55 minutes
Who Discovered Jupiter?
Jupiter is the last planet that is visible to the naked eye from the surface of Earth. This visibility makes it nearly impossible to determine who discovered it. The first recorded mentions of the gas giant belong to the Babylonians, sometime around the seventh or eighth century B.C. Galileo often gets the credit for discovering Jupiter because he was the first to observe its moons, but we’ve been watching the king of the gods for millennia.
What Is Jupiter Known For?
Jupiter is the most massive planet in our solar system, and it’s the only gas giant we can see without the assistance of a telescope. Until this year, it also had the most moons of any planet in the solar system, but even if Saturn stole its title, its collection of 79 satellites is still impressive.
What Makes Jupiter Unique?
There are a few planet Jupiter facts that make this massive gas giant unique. The first is the Great Red Spot, the gigantic storm that’s been raging on the Jovian surface for decades. It also doesn’t have seasons like many other planets, because its axis has almost no tilt.
With these facts about Jupiter, we’ve left the inner planets behind. However, we’ve still got plenty of places left to explore. Next, we’ll head to the ringed giant named for the Greek God Cronus — Saturn.