Being 2.5 times the size of all of the other planets in the Solar System combined, Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System. Jupiter has a mass 1/1000th of the Sun and is the fifth planet from the Sun. With a moderately sized amateur telescope, one can see the different bands of Jupiter, up to 4 moons and potentially the Great Red Spot.
Although Jupiter itself is typically seen as uninhabitable for life, Europa is one of the likeliest places to find life elsewhere in our solar system. Jupiter is usually the fourth brightest object in the sky, which means that after the Sun, the Moon, and Venus, then Jupiter. Jupiter was first seen through a telescope in 1610 by Italian polymath Galileo Galilei. The composition of Jupiter is similar to that of the Sun—mostly hydrogen and helium. Jupiter has enough material to become a star, as it has enough materials, but did not grow massive enough to ignite. Jupiter does not have a true surface.
|Distance To The Sun||483.8 million miles or 5.2 AU|
|Length of A Day||9 hours 56 minutes in Earth Time|
|Length Of A Year||12 Earth years|
|Number Of Moons||79|
|Number Of Rings||3 types of rings|
|Missions To The Planet||10 (flybys included)|
|Atmosphere||Mostly made of molecular hydrogen and helium in roughly solar proportions; other chemical compounds are present only in small amounts and include methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and water.|
|Size Compared To Earth||11 times the diameter of Earth. A volume is over 1,300 times the volume of Earth.|
|Discoverer And Discovery Date||Known By Ancients|
Jupiter has a total of 79 moons, 53 of which are named and 26 are waiting for official names. Of the 79 moons, the ones that are of most interest to scientists are the Galilean satellites, which include Io, Europa, and Ganymede.
Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system. Callisto’s very few small craters indicate a small degree of current surface activity. A liquid-water ocean with the ingredients for life may lie beneath the frozen crust of Europa, making it a tempting place to explore.
Jupiter also has several rings, but unlike the famous rings of Saturn, these rings are very faint and made of dust, not ice. These rings are so faint that they were not discovered until Voyager 1 in 1979, which surprised scientists. These rings are composed of small, dark particles and are difficult to see except when backlit by the Sun and have been shown to potentially be formed by dust kicked up as interplanetary meteoroids smash into the giant planet’s small innermost moons.
- It takes light 42.77 minutes from the Sun to reach the planet!
- Raging for several hundred years, the Great Red Spot is a giant storm that is larger than Earth.
Check out the Planetary Bodies Category for previous and upcoming articles on the solar system planets.