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Jupiter's Atmosphere: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be on the planet Jupiter, then this is the lesson for you! Read on to explore what the atmosphere is like on the largest planet in our solar system.

What is Jupiter Made Of?

Imagine a planet made up of mostly air. If there was life on that planet, would it all just be floating around like balloons? On Earth, we have solid land to stand on. This is not the case on Jupiter.

Jupiter's so-called surface is actually made of gas, which is why it's called a 'gas giant' planet. But, the atmosphere is also the gases surrounding a planet. Since both the surface and the atmosphere are gas, where does one stop and one begin? The surface of Jupiter is defined as where the pressure is the same as the pressure on Earth. Going deeper into the gas past the surface, the gas turns into a liquid, and some scientists think it may even turn into a metal as you go deeper.

Not only is Jupiter the largest planet in our solar system, it also has the thickest atmosphere. It is made up of gases such as hydrogen (about 90%), and helium (about 10%). There are also small amounts of ammonia, sulfur, methane, and water vapor. The two dominant gases on Jupiter (hydrogen and helium), happen to also be the gases that make up the sun. Let's take a trip in a spaceship to explore a bit more of Jupiter's atmosphere.

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and also has the thickest atmosphere.
picture of Jupiter

Layers of Jupiter's Atmosphere

First, we'll have to prepare our spaceship and spacesuits for extreme pressure and temperature changes. As we travel from the outer to the inner layers, the pressure will greatly increase and temperatures will vary depending on which layer we're in.

Exosphere

The first layer our spaceship travels through is the exosphere. This is a very thin layer made up of hydrogen and helium. This layer has such little pressure, it has a hard time holding on to the gases in it, and some end up escaping into space. Temperature varies in the exosphere.

Thermosphere

The next layer we fly though is the thermosphere, which blends in with the exosphere. The air in this layer is warmed by the magnetic quality of the planet and by the sun. As we travel down through this layer, pressure increases and temperature decreases.

Stratosphere

At 200 miles above what is considered to be the surface of Jupiter, we reach the stratosphere where hydrogen and helium continue to dominate. The temperatures in this layer also decrease the lower you go. Pressure continues to increase, but when we reach the end of this layer, the pressure is still 1000 times less than what we feel on earth!

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