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Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun, is the largest planet in the solar system. It is the first of the “gas giants” and has no surface, though it may have a rocky core. Although it is only 1/1000th as massive as the sun, it is more than double as massive as all of the other planets in the solar system combined. Jupiter’s atmosphere is separated into different bands and gives the planet the appearance of having whitish and reddish layers with various spots, swirls and bubbles. Jupiter’s most notable feature, other than its size, is the great red spot, a football shaped area of intense storms. The entire planet Earth could fit inside the great red spot. The spot, which is a high pressure, stable storm with winds that gust over 400 miles per hour, is said to be somewhat similar to a hurricane. Recent studies have shown that the spot has actually shrunk and that the storm may be weakening. Scientists still don’t have an explanation for why the spot looks red. In addition, Jupiter also has a faint set of rings (probably made of dust) that wrap around the planet horizontally.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It is nearly 318 times as massive as Earth, has the surface area of 122 Earths, and has 1,321 times the volume of Earth.
Gravitational force on Jupiter is 254% the gravitational force on Earth. A 100 pound Earthling would weigh about 254 pounds on Jupiter.
Jupiter is located an average of 466,000,000 miles from the sun. At its closest point, Earth and Jupiter are more than 390,000,000 miles apart. At their farthest, the two planets are more than 576,000,000 miles apart.
The atmosphere of Jupiter is about 86 percent hydrogen and 14 percent helium. Methane, water vapor and ammonia exist in trace amounts. The interior of Jupiter is denser, with about 71 percent hydrogen, 24 percent helium and five percent other elements. Occasionally, flashes of lightning are detected in the atmosphere of Jupiter. These electrical discharges are said to be at least 1,000 times as powerful as the typical lightning strike on Earth.
The average temperature in the cloud tops of planet Jupiter is -234 F, but if you were to descend from the cloud tops, closer to the interior of the planet (where the atmospheric pressure becomes about ten times what it is on Earth) the temperatures would actually be around 55 degrees F. If you were to descend farther, the temperatures would become incredibly hot.
Jupiter has at least 63 moons, more than any other planet. The four Galilean moons of Jupiter are the most massive. These moons were discovered by Galileo himself in 1610 and were the first moons discovered of any planet other than Earth’s.
Jupiter is the third brightest object in the sky after Venus and the Moon.
*Recently, an amateur astronomer in Australia discovered an Earth-sized dent toward the southern pole of Jupiter. According to NASA, the dent was likely caused by a stray comet or chunk of ice.