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Published on June 8th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie

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Planet Jupiter: The Local Gas Giant Of The Solar System

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Planet Jupiter The Shadow Is Being Cast By Its Moon, Europa

It is of a scale that is hard to perceive. Two and a half times heavier than all of the other planets in the Solar System combined. A giant ball of gas, planet Jupiter is truly an awe-inspiring sight that contains the largest object in the Solar System.

400 million miles from Earth. Like the majority of the gas and ice giants, Jupiter is a mini Solar System. The Jovian planet is 11 times the diameter of the Earth. One day lasts just 9.9 hours although it takes the planet just under 12 years for it to orbit the Sun.

Formation Of The Jovian Giant

There are many theories as to how planet Jupiter formed. Its composition suggests that it is made from the exact material as our star, the Sun. Therefore, some believe it is failed star.

It is thought that Jupiter acts as a protector, cleaning the path of debris. Some scientists maintain that comets strike Jupiter at a rate 8,000 times more frequent than on Earth. It is thereby believed that planet Jupiter protects the terrestrial planets from the brunt of the collisions that occur.

The Great Red Spot

The largest storm in the Solar System at 20,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) in width is the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. Moving at over 550 kilometres (350 miles) per hour, it can easily accommodate the Earth with plenty of room to spare.

It is still unclear as to why the Great Red Spot remains in the same position or what forces power it. Regular hurricanes need water to occur, obviously there is no water on planet Jupiter so other forces must be at work. Some scientists maintain that the Great Red Spot is powered by heat emanating from deep within Jupiter’s interior.

Planet Jupiter's Great Red Spot

 

Planet Jupiter’s Jetstreams

Jupiter’s jetstreams are unique, and in comparison to the Earth, completely alien. Planet Jupiter has zonal bands or jets which move in alternating directions. They are thought to be powered by the planet’s internal heat. The reason why Jupiter has multiple jetstreams is due to the massive size of the planet.

Approach Of Planet Jupiter Showing Jetstream

 

The Largest Object In The Solar System

The magnetosphere of planet Jupiter is the largest object in the Solar System.  At 725 million kilometres (450 million miles) long, it is much larger than the Sun. Jupiter is a giant superconductor of electricity. We see them in the form of colossal auroras which are up to one thousand times more powerful than our northern and southern lights.

The Magnetosphere Of Planet Jupiter (The Small Pink Sphere In The Centre Is The Planet)

Sounds emitted from the magnetosphere can be picked up on radios, bleeps, chirps and roars can sometimes be heard. These radio emissions are caused by a complex process involving planet Jupiter’s moon Lo.

Lo, a highly volcanic moon, emits gas particles into the magnetosphere. The particles form a doughnut shape, or torus, which Lo crosses creating a type of magnetohydrodynamic wave called Alfven waves. These waves go through another couple of processes and eventually a giant cone of radio waves is formed around the planet.

Interaction Between Jupiter's Moon Lo And Planet Jupiter That Causes Radio Transmission

When the Earth intersects this cone – we can hear radio transmission from planet Jupiter which can be heard above the normal Solar emissions of the Sun.

The Aurora

Arguably one of the most stunning sights in the Solar System is the aurora of Jupiter. Planet Jupiter’s aurora, like the Earth’s, is caused by electrically charged particles interacting with atoms in the atmosphere.

Aurora On Planet Jupiter

Planet Jupiter’s Ring System

All of the gas giants have ring systems but Jupiter’s was not revealed until relatively recently. Planet Jupiter’ s ring system is much smaller and harder to see than that of the other planets. This is thought to be because of the planet’s exceptionally large gravitational field which rips apart objects into small particles.

Jupiter’s ring system is believe to be comprised mostly of dust particles. The strong gravity of the planet sucks a lot of the particles in. Although planet Jupiter continues to add more and more material to its rings drawn close to the planet by its powerful gravitational pull.

Planet Jupiter's Ring System

Planet Jupiter has many moons. Next week Yellow Magpie will take a look at some of its satellites.

Highly Recommended Reading

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Dwarf Planet Ceres: A Watery Life-Filled World? and The Solar Maximum: The Years The Earth Is Left Defenceless.

You may like to also take a gander at The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.

Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of the asteroids and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.

Amazon.co.uk
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.

Amazon.ca
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.

Amazon.de
For Germany: Cosmos.

Amazon.fr
For France: Cosmos.


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