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Facts About Jupiter: Atmosphere, Temperature & Mass

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  • 0:01 The Fifth Planet
  • 0:59 Size, Temperature, Day & Year
  • 2:16 Atmosphere & Magnetic Field
  • 3:05 The Great Red Spot
  • 3:30 Moons & Rings
  • 4:59 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Katie Chamberlain

Katie has a PhD in Microbiology and has experience preparing online education content in Biology and Earth Science.

If you think Texas is big, then you need to read this lesson! Stay tuned for facts about our solar system's largest planet, including its size, temperature, appearance, rings, and moons.

The Fifth Planet

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, and it is the largest planet in our solar system. Both the Greeks and the Romans named this giant planet after the kings of their gods: Zeus and Jupiter. It is not a terrestrial planet, which means that it does not have a solid surface; instead, it's known as a 'gas giant.' Because it doesn't have a solid surface, scientists describe the surface of the planet as the level with one atmospheric pressure.

Since the deepest that a probe has measured is only 150 km below the cloud tops, the true inner workings of the planet remain a mystery. Seven missions have flown past Jupiter, starting with Pioneer 10 in 1973. A probe was sent into the atmosphere in 1995 by the orbiting spacecraft, Galileo. The Juno mission was launched in August, 2011 and will reach Jupiter in July, 2016.

Size, Temperature, Day and Year

Jupiter is approximately 318 times more massive than Earth. It is 88,000 miles in diameter (nearly 11 times larger than the Earth's). This translates to a volume so large that Jupiter could fit 1,300 Earths inside of it. In fact, if you combined all of the other planets into one big planet, it would still not be as large as Jupiter!

The temperature on Jupiter depends upon the depth, with increasing temperatures occurring deeper within the planet. The surface temperature is a frigid -229 degrees F, but there are levels within the planet that are a balmy 70 degrees F. Unfortunately, the pressure at these pleasant levels is estimated to be nearly ten times that on Earth, which is only one reason you wouldn't want to live there.

Despite its massive size, Jupiter spins faster than any other planet and takes just ten hours to rotate, as opposed to the Earth's 24. As a consequence of this speed, the planet flattens at the poles and bulges at the equator. While a day on Jupiter is very short, the year lasts for nearly 12 Earth years because of how far it is from the sun.

Atmosphere and Magnetic Field

The mass of Jupiter's atmosphere is composed of 75% hydrogen and 25% helium. It is crisscrossed with dark- and light-colored stripes that are caused by winds in the upper atmosphere. These winds can be as fast as 400 miles per hour. The lighter levels are called zones and are made of frozen ammonia crystals. The darker levels are called bands and are made of other chemicals. Jupiter's clouds are a mix of blues, browns, whites, and reds, depending on their altitude.

Jupiter's magnetic field is 20,000 times that of the Earth. The tail of the magnetic field extends for over 600 million miles behind Jupiter (past the orbit of Saturn). The strong magnetic field means that the environment contains a high amount of radiation, which would be fatal to humans.

The Great Red Spot

The most famous part of Jupiter is its great red spot. The cause behind this stunning feature is a giant spinning storm that has been going on for nearly 300 years. Its winds whirl as fast as 225 miles per hour, and at the widest point, the spot is three times larger than the Earth. Interestingly, the red spot cannot be seen at all on occasion.

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