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Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. Even though we learn about this gas giant in school, there are numerous exciting facts the average person may not know. The planet continues to surprise us with its shocking size, powerful magnetic field, and abundance of moons.
So, if you want to find out more about Jupiter, you’re at the right place. Read on to discover 10 facts about the planet that will leave you in awe of our universe’s wonders.
Yes, we all know Jupiter is giant, but how big is it exactly? Those pictures of the Solar System in your science books don’t do the planet justice. Jupiter has an 88,846-mile diameter from the equator, but that doesn’t help you imagine its size in your head, does it?
The Sun is only 11 times wider than Jupiter, and the planet is 318 times bigger than Earth. Since Jupiter was the first planet to be formed in the Solar System, it had the opportunity to gather more gas and, consequently, grow impressively large.
Something else you might not know about the size of Jupiter is that if it were to gather more gas, the planet would actually become smaller. The increased mass would start pulling the gases into the core due to the planet’s density. So, even if Jupiter’s mass increased four times, its size would remain about the same.
Jupiter has the same quantities of hydrogen and helium as a star, but it can never become a star. Its mass isn’t enough to trigger a fusion reaction in its core, which is required for the transition to occur.
Hydrogen atoms are fused under extreme pressure to become helium, and this fusion reaction allows stars to generate energy. However, it requires a powerful gravitational pull, which Jupiter doesn’t have.
Jupiter would need to have a mass 70 times heavier to ignite this nuclear fusion reaction.
Aside from being the biggest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter also spins the fastest. This may seem surprising due to its enormous size, but there’s not enough mass to slow down the planet’s speed.
Jupiter spins at a rotational velocity of 7.45 miles per second. It’s also worth noting that it only takes Jupiter 10 hours to complete an entire rotation on its axis. This speed explains why the planet’s poles are flattened while the equator is bulged out.
Jupiter’s velocity also contributes to the dangerous radiation and maintains its potent magnetic field.
Jupiter is mighty, but its clouds are incredibly delicate. They are only 50 meters thick and contribute to its beautiful and colorful atmosphere.
Jupiter’s clouds are made up of ammonia crystals, and the darker compounds are brought up from deep inside the planet. When exposed to sunlight, a reaction occurs that makes these compounds change color.
What’s fascinating is that these delicate clouds are merely a boundary for the seemingly endless pit of helium and hydrogen below them.
If you know anything about Jupiter, you’ve probably heard of the iconic Great Red Spot, a persistent anticyclonic storm raging for hundreds of years. It was first reported in 1665, and this storm is even larger than the entirety of Earth.
Some 20th-century astronomers speculated that this spot was a storm caused by the planet’s turbulent and speedy atmosphere. Finally, their theories were confirmed with the Voyager 1 mission. This mission was able to observe the spot and its details up close.
However, it’s worth noting that the spot has shrunk to nearly half its originally reported size of roughly 25,000 miles.
Saturn and Uranus usually come to mind when talking about planets with rings. But did you know that Jupiter has a ring system, too? Unfortunately, these rings are incredibly faint, so they aren’t reported as commonly as the other planets’.
The planet’s ring system has three main components: the halo, the main ring, and the outer gossamer ring. The halo is simply an inner torus of particles, while the main ring is relatively bright compared to the others.
These rings primarily consist of materials that Jupiter’s moons eject each time a meteorite strikes them. The main ring consists of materials from the Adrastea and Metis moons, while the gossamer rings contain materials from the Thebe and Amalthea moons.
Jupiter’s magnetic field is insanely strong, and we mean it. It’s 14 times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field.
Eddy currents within the planet’s liquid hydrogen metallic core cause the strength of this magnetic field.
We all know Jupiter has many moons, but what’s the actual number? The planet has 53 named moons and 26 yet to be named, with 200+ natural satellites orbiting the atmosphere. These include Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Amalthea, Dia, Eirene, Jupiter LII, Kallichore, Kore, and more.
The most exciting part is that all these moons were discovered after 1975 after Pioneer 10 arrived at Jupiter. Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are its major moons, also known as the Galilean moons.
Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system, even bigger than the planet Mercury. Meanwhile, Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system, and Europa has a mostly icy surface, in contrast.
It’s also worth noting that the planet has been visited by spacecraft seven times, which may not seem like a big number, but it’s a big feat for a planet that big and with dangerous radiation and an endless pit of hydrogen and helium.
After the Sun, the Moon, and Venus, Jupiter is the fourth brightest member of the solar system. Therefore, you can see it with your naked eye at night. So, the next time you spot an unusually bright star in the sky, get a pair of binoculars or a telescope to see it in all its glory.
Even modest magnification will show you a few bright specks orbiting the planet—its Galilean moons. Once you get a glimpse, you’ll admit it’s pretty cool to see what Galileo saw in 1610.
As you now know, Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system. If you combined all the other planets in the solar system, this giant planet would still be two and a half times bigger than that collective mass. This planet is also known as the “Gas Giant” since it primarily consists of gases.
It’s rightfully named after the King of Roman Gods and was discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. The planet was formed from the leftover gasses after the formation of the Sun
Other than that, it’s also the oldest planet in our solar system. It started as a large solid core and became 20 times the size of Earth over the next million years. Then, over the following 3–4 million years, it became 50 times the mass of Earth.
Jupiter is a massive planet, but that’s not the only exciting thing about it. The planet has endless wonders that fascinate astronomers and scientists, including its nearly invisible rings and many moons.
Now that you’ve read 10 interesting facts about Jupiter, you have something new to fascinate your friends and family or add to your latest astronomy paper in school.
Featured Image Credit: GustavoAckles, Pixabay
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Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.
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