Unlike any planet, Jupiter is a fascinating planet. It is the 5th planet in our solar system and also the largest. It’s nearly 2 times as big as all the planets combined. The first planet that Galileo Galilei saw through his telescope was Jupiter. He saw Jupiter along with its 4 moons. This discovery ended ancient beliefs and which led to a new track in the ocean of science. This monster can swallow the whole of the solar system and still have room for more. There is one weird fact which is less known to many. Jupiter causes the sun to wobble. Just like planets have a center, The sun orbits a center known as Barycenter. But this orbit is notably tiny, it’s seen as a wobble. Because of the sheer size of Jupiter, both the sun and Jupiter orbit this. It is by this wobble of other stars, scientists try to find huge planets in a different solar system.
Formed during the formation of the solar system; which is approx 4.5 billion years ago. Jupiter contains the same ingredients that of the sun but didn’t grow big enough to ignite. If Jupiter was 30 times more its size, it would be our second sun. This planet has insane weather and a completely different atmosphere. The extreme pressure and temperatures deep inside the planet’s crust melts and vapourize spacecraft which are trying to fly into the planet. The stripes and swirls which you see in the images are cold. It has windy clouds made of ammonia and water which floats in the atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. One more unique and unnoticed fact is that, just like Saturn, Jupiter too have rings. But these rings are extremely faint and were only observed during a close flyby by one of the spacecraft’s (will be discussed below). These rings are not made of ice or rocks but tiny particles of dust. Wind speeds can reach up to 335 miles/hr or 597 km/hr. The Great Red Spot. The swirling, red spot is a giant spinning storm. It looks like a hurricane. Almost 3 1/2 Earths would fit across the storm. Hurricanes on Jupiter are the size of earth, and recently 3 hurricanes merged into the great red spot. The great red spot is of great mystery.
You may try to land on Jupiter, but that’s a horrific choice. one of the reasons is, there is no ground on Jupiter and has a deep atmosphere.
Orbiting at a distance of about 5.2 AU Jupiter has the fastest rotation. A day on this planet is 9.5 hours and the orbit around the sun is 12 earth years=4,333 earth days. It has a tilt of just 3 degrees which makes it not to have extreme seasons. Galileo spacecraft went 75 miles below the clouds of Jupiter where it lasted for only 58 mins before breaking up down, where the pressure was 100 times that of earth and the area surrounded by complete darkness. The radius of Jupiter is 43,440.7 miles or 69,911 km. This is 11 times wider than the earth. For comparison, 5.5 piles of the earth would fit from the center to a point(forming a radius) on Jupiter. Light from the sun takes approximately 43 minutes to reach Jupiter.
In the deep atmosphere of Jupiter, the pressure and temperature increase which results in liquefaction of the hydrogen. This causes Jupiter to have the largest ocean in the solar system which is made up of hydrogen. As we go deeper, we can’t communicate with the outer world, as the inner denser atmosphere absorbs radio waves.
The pressure is extremely intense at the center of the planet, that electrons are squeezed off the hydrogen which makes the liquid electrically conducting like metal.
Due to its rotation, it has a powerful magnetic field. The Jupiter’s core is estimated to have temperatures of 90.032 F (or) 50,000C.
The core contains mostly of iron and silicate minerals (similar to quartz).
What spacecraft was observing Jupiter and what is its magnetosphere? Let’s explore
(P.S: don’t mind the order of the dates)
Juno spacecraft went to Jupiter in July 2016. It is the first of its kind. It was sent mostly to study the planet’s mysterious cloud-shrouded interior. Its lifetime was about 6 years.
Juno flew 310,000 miles close to the planet’s cloud tops. It was made to go below the deadly radiation belts of Jupiter. Juno has remote sensing abilities.
It is the first probe to visit the poles and witness the auroras on Jupiter.
It observed something different: 3 distant and distinct cloud layers which span over 44 miles/71 km
1) The top cloud which is made of ammonia ice
2) 2nd layer which is made of ammonium hydrosulfide crystals
3) The innermost layer may be made of water ice and vapor.
As of now, there are 53 confirmed moons and 26 provisional moons awaiting confirmation. 4 large moon and many smaller ones.
Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to fly post-Jupiter and later Pioneer 11 followed.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 later.
3 faint rings of Jupiter was only possible to be discovered by the Voyager 1.
Few other spacecraft for a different purpose are:
Ulysses mission used gravitational fling to hurl itself into orbitals to pass off the sun’s northern and southern poles.
Cassini and New Horizons studied Jupiter while on their way to different missions.
Cassini for Saturn Pluto while New Horizon for Kuiper belt.
Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array(ALMA) in northern chile along with Hubbles, The Very Large Array, The Gemini, Keck and Subaru observatories in Hawaii and VLT in Chile were used to peek deep inside the clouds of Jupiter.
These were able to see 31 miles(50 km) below Jupiter’s clouds and spotted an eruption in January 2017 along with 4 spots which later disappeared. It was later estimated that these spots were formed 80 km below the clouds,
ALMA enabled a 3D map of the distribution of ammonia gas below the clouds. Energetic plums were triggered by moist convection at the base of water clouds which are located deep inside the atmosphere.
Few more missions by NASA are:
NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s JUICE (JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer).
Coming to its Jupiter’s magnetosphere, the magnetosphere balloons are 600,000 to 2,000,000 miles (1 to 3 million km) towards the sun. These are 21 times the diameter of Jupiter. The tails of this magnetosphere extend more than 600 million miles (1 billion km)( as far as Saturn orbit); tails are approximately 16 to 54 times that of earth.
Few of the wonderful moons of jupiter are IO, Europa,Ganymede and Callisto. These were observed by Galileo in 1610 ( also known as galilean satellites).
IO- the most volcanically active body.
Ganymede -Largest moon (bigger than mercury)
Callisto– Small degree of surface activity.
Europa– Liquid water ocean beneath the frozen crust.
Europa is the most promising candidate for the moon which might host alien life.
There are still several mysteries of Jupiter and all of the other planets in our solar system.
One by one, we’ll discuss various mysteries of the cosmos.
Science is the only key for the mysteries to be unlocked.
- HIGH RES IMAGES OF JUPITER
- JUPITER’S NORTH POLE IN IR
- JUPITER LIKE PLANET-HOT JUPITER