SPACE pt. 2 – Jupiter



For full effect, listen to what Jupiter sounds like by clicking play before scrolling by:

Most of Jupiter’s mass comes from its swirling clouds of gas (composed of hydrogen – basically the same stuff as the Sun), though it does have a solid core (again mostly hydrogen). This means Jupiter’s appearance is constantly changing:

Jupiter is 318 times more massive than the Earth and, excluding the Sun, weighs more than the rest of the Solar System put together. But don’t let people tell you that it’s a “failed star“; it formed from the accretion disk around the Sun just like the rest of us planets, and the Sun is over 1,000 times bigger than Jupiter.
When the comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 was drawn in and torn apart by Jupiter’s gravity:

… the pieces struck the surface and left scars in the atmosphere itself, lasting for months:

Jupiter, like all the Jovian planets, has rings:

… but they’re so faint that you can’t see them with the naked eye unless you’re looking towards the Sun (which is not something we can do from here!); if you could, they’d look like this:

Its most famous feature is its vivid Red Spot:

… which is basically a tornado that got started some time ago and hasn’t stopped. While we know a little about how it keeps going, we have no good answer to the question “why is it red?”.
Jupiter’s magnetosphere is an enormous structure emerging from the meeting of the solar wind with Jupiter’s magnetic field:

Jupiter has an impressive 66 moons:

That might have been 67, if one of them hadn’t disappeared in 2000, possibly forming a new ring system around the planet.

The Galilean Satellites are Jupiter’s four biggest moons:

(to scale)

Io orbits so close that it’s stretched and torn by Jupiter’s immense gravity, bleeding lava from its cracked surface:

Look close for the volcanic plumes in these next two:

Europa is, by contrast, an icy giant with an incredibly smooth, white, icy surface:

Its surface looks like cracked ice:

Why no craters? Maybe because there’s liquid water under there that fills in any holes! Possibly – that’s what Science! has predicted. Let’s go check, yeah?

Ganymede is the biggest moon (of Jupiter – the second overall), and is even bigger than Mercury.

It’s also the only moon in the Solar System that has its own magnetosphere – not even Venus and Mars have one of those!

These three moons orbit in perfect 1:2:4 resonance:

Further out is Callisto, whose name literally means “the most beautiful”:

Its surface is very, very cratered and (therefore) very, very old.

Want more? A very accessible (and good!) documentary starts here:

(please don’t be put off by the unfortunate thumbnail)



~ by Andrew on May 12, 2012.

One Response to “SPACE pt. 2 – Jupiter”

  1. Fabulous pictures, and I love the sounds of Jupiter video!

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