The fifth and largest of the planets in our Solar System, is Jupiter. This gas giant has no surface and is entirely composed of various gasses. Jupiter is 89% hydrogen and 10% helium. If you combined all of the other planets in our solar system together, the mass of Jupiter would still be 2.5 times that amount! Below are some facts about Jupiter:
1. You could fit 1,300 Earths inside Jupiter!
Just to get an idea of how humongous Jupiter really is, Jupiter is 318 times the size of Earth. It is also as big as it can get. According to theoretical models, Jupiter would start to shrink if it had much more mass.
2. Jupiter is home to the Great Red Spot
The Great Red Spot is the biggest storm in our solar system. Humans noticed this storm around 1664 by Robert Hooke and is thought to have been in existence for much longer than that. The edges of the spot spin at speeds of 225 miles (360 km) per hour!
As the picture below demonstrates, the storm seems to be growing smaller. Currently the diameter of two Earth, astronomers have observed the edges of the storm starting to brake off and dissipate, suggesting it may eventually disappear.
3. Jupiter’s gravity is 2.5 times that of Earth
Jupiter’s size and gravity has lead many astronomers to believe that the presence of Jupiter in our Solar System prevented a number of larger asteroids from colliding with Earth. The idea is that Jupiter has played the role of a “big brother” and kept the Earth safe from dangerous collisions.
4. Our first observance of extraterrestrial collisions was with Jupiter
The first time humanity saw two cosmic objects collide was when the Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 collided with Jupiter. Observed in 1993 orbiting Jupiter, the comet broke up and its fragments collided with Jupiter in 1994.
5. Currently Jupiter has 79 moons!
For years we knew of Jupiter’s 16 moons, but recently astronomers have added dozens of new orbiting bodies. As of 2019, the count is 79.
The four biggest were discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and are called the Galilean moons.
6. Jupiter has rings!
The faint rings were first observed by the Voyager 1 probe in 1979. Since them we have gained a much better understanding of Jupiter’s ring system, which are 116,196 miles (187,000 km) total in width
7. Jupiter rotates in under 10 hours
One day on Jupiter is less than 10 Earth hours. With it’s super fast rotation, Jupiter is the fastest spinning planet in our Solar System.
8. Jupiter could have come a star
When forming, if Jupiter had increased 80 times its current size, nuclear fusion would have started to occur in its core. This would have resulted in the formation of a star instead of a planet. For this reason, some scientists consider Jupiter to be a failed star. There’s always Americans Got Talent :).
9. Jupiter is the biggest source of radio waves in the sky
Charged particles from Jupiter extended up to 7 million km into the Sun and almost reach Saturn on the other side. This magnetosphere is the most powerful of any planet in our solar system. When charged particles are accelerated by and move in spirals around the strong magnetic field of Jupiter, they emit electromagnetic radiation. The frequency of this is radio waves, which can be measured on Earth. You can actually pick up these signals with relatively cheap radio equipment.
This results in radio emissions, which seem to follow its rotation
10. Jupiter emits more heat than it takes in from the Sun
In comparison to the heat provided by the Sun, Jupiter releases 4 times that amount itself!