Jupiter 101 | The Solar System's First Planet

Born from primordial stardust, 4.5 billion years ago, Jupiter was the solar system's first planet. And much like its namesake, the king of the ancient Roman gods, Jupiter was destined for greatness.

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, and the largest planet in the solar system. At approximately 11 earths wide, Jupiter has twice the amount of mass as the other planets put together.

Jupiter takes 11.8618 Earth years to complete a single orbit of the Sun. In other words, a single Jovian year lasts the equivalent of 4,332.59 Earth days. (universetoday.com)

But, unlike Earth, and the three other terrestrial worlds, Jupiter has no solid surface. It may not even have a traditionally solid core. Rather, this giant planet may have a dense, liquid center surround by a worldwide ocean of hydrogen and helium gases.

Jupiter's gassiest composition can be observed in its atmosphere. About 44 miles thick, the atmosphere is a canvas of stripes and storms, churning across the giant planet. Their colors range between shades of whites, yellows, browns, and reds, all caused by the different chemical make up of each area.

Given the fact that it is the largest planet in the Solar System, one would expect that a day on Jupiter would last a long time. But as it turns out, a Jovian day is officially only 9 hours, 55 minutes and 30 seconds long, which means a single day is just over a third the length of an Earth day. (universetoday.com)

Probably the most iconic feature of Jupiter, is a crimson brown storm that's been raging for over 300 years, the Great Red Spot. It's a giant, swirling collection of clouds with wind speeds of up to 400 miles per hour, at least two and half times faster than category five hurricanes.

Floating hundreds of miles above the storms of Jupiter, are about 79 moons, the most of the eight known planets.

The four largest moons were discovered by Galileo in 1610. Called the Galilean Satellites, they include: Io, the most volcanically active celestial body in the solar system; Ganymede, the solar system's largest moon, even larger than the planet Mercury; and Callisto and Europa, which along with Ganymede, may contain oceans of liquid water underneath their crusts.

Jupiter's large collection of moons is only made possible by the planet's massive size and gravitational pull, the strongest of all the planets in the solar system. This incredible gravity also influence the sizes of the seven other planets.

During the solar system's earliest days, Jupiter, being the first planet to form, attracted and destroyed space debris that would've helped the other planets grow in size.

Today, that force may serve as a shield by attracting comets and asteroids onto Jupiter's own surface, preventing them from crashing onto inner planets like Earth.

Apart from the sun, Jupiter has become the dominant figure in the solar system, thereby earning its place at the top of the planetary heap as king.

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