Jupiter was appropriately named after Jupiter, the king of the gods in Roman mythology! It’s an enormous planet, with an extremely powerful magnetic field and more moons than any planet in the Solar System.
Stargazers have known about Jupiter since ancient times, but with the discovery of the telescope and the dawn of modern astronomy we have learnt a great deal about this gas giant. Massive, powerful, ancient, but that’s not all -it’s merely scratching the surface!
To go even further, beneath the surface, and learn more about this space giant, we’ve prepared these 18 interesting facts about Jupiter that might just surprise you…
1. Jupiter is much larger than you think!
Jupiter has an Equatorial diameter of 142,900 km and a Polar diameter of 133,700 km. It has a mass of 1.90 x 1027 kg. To put these figures into context, Jupiter’s mass is worth the mass of 318 Earths. In fact, even if you put all the other planets in the solar system together, Jupiter would still be 2.5 times larger!
2. Funnily enough, Jupiter might shrink!
If Jupiter’s mass grew, the planet would actually get smaller as the increased density caused it to pull inward.
3. Can Jupiter become a star?
People call it a failed star. It has hydrogen and helium like other stars but it can’t trigger the fusion at its core required to become a star. It lacks the mass. If Jupiter does ever become 80 times larger, it will become a star.
4. Jupiter’s strong magnetic field
5. Jupiter’s atmosphere is similar to the Sun
As mentioned above, Jupiter’s atmosphere is hydrogen (90%) and helium (10%). It is similar to the Sun in this manner but not as massive. On the inside, the planet has a rocky core (with a mass 12–45 times that of our planet) surrounded by electrically conductive liquid hydrogen, and a layer of ordinary hydrogen with some helium above that. The liquid hydrogen is responsible for the planet’s powerful magnetic field.
6. Jupiter’s raging storm
Jupiter has a massive storm that has raged for at least three and a half centuries. They call it the Great Red Spot and three Earths could fit in it. That is how wide it is. But the storm is getting smaller.
7. Jupiter’s core: hot, hot, hot!
The planet’s surface temperature is -108 degrees Celsius. But the core is estimated to reach 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit. If that is true, the planet’s core is hotter than the Sun’s surface!
8. Jupiter’s rapid rotation might just surprise you
Jupiter completes a rotation on its axis every ten hours. At 12.6 km/s, it is a really rapid rotation that gives it an oblate shape (slightly flattened at the poles but bulging at the equator).
9. You’re not the only one with rings, Jupiter has them as well!
Jupiter has rings that reach 225,000 km from the planet. They are very faint, which is why so many people do not realise that they exist. They consist of dust particles.
10. Jupiter needs quite some time to orbit the Sun
In fact, it takes Jupiter almost 12 Earth years to orbit the Sun. No wonder, Jupiter is considerably far from the Sun!
11. So many satellites!
There are over 200 natural satellites orbiting Jupiter; 79 are moons. Ganymede, which is 5,200 km in diameter, is the largest moon in the solar system.
Historical Jupiter facts!
12. Jupiter was discovered by advanced geometry
The Babylonians discovered this planet as early as the 7th century BC. Freshly interpreted ancient tablets show that ancient Babylonian astronomers used surprisingly advanced geometry to understand the planets. In fact, the find, shows that Babylonians traced Jupiter by calculating the areas of trapezoids they used to symbolize the planet’s motion across the sky.
13. Jupiter, the king of the gods!
Jupiter is the biggest planet in our Solar System, so fittingly it was named after Jupiter, the king of the gods in Roman mythology, also known as the god of sky and thunder.
14. The discovery of Jupiter’s largest moons
Galileo discovered Jupiter’s largest moons (Ganymede, Io, Callisto, and Europa) in 1610. This proved to him and the world that celestial bodies could orbit something other than the Earth.
15. The first “visitor” on Jupiter
The first spacecraft to visit Jupiter was NASA’s Pioneer 10 in 1973. Since then, the planet has been visited 7 more times.
Bonus Jupiter facts!
16. Jupiter is so bright!
Jupiter is the second brightest planet, only losing out to Venus. If you include the Sun and the Moon, it is the 4th brightest object in the night sky and can be seen with the naked eye.
17. You can spot Jupiter with your own eyes
Because Jupiter is the second brightest planet in the Solar System, there’s a chance that you’ve already seen it in the sky, and had no idea! So next time, when you spot a really bright star high in the sky, watch carefully, you’re looking at Jupiter!
18. Some of Jupiter’s moons may be capable of harbouring life
The Voyager and Galileo missions found out that Europa, one of the largest moons in the Solar System, has a subsurface liquid ocean covered in dense ice. In fact, researchers believe that Europa may actually be capable of harbouring life since it meets three vital conditions: biochemically suitable molecules, a source of energy, and water.
Do you know any interesting or fun facts about Jupiter? Share them in the comments below!
Are you fascinated with the solar system? Check out these amazing facts about the Sun