JUPITER

 

Planetary facts

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest. It is giant planet, whose mass is 318 times that of Earth.

Jupiter is about 90% hydrogen and 10% helium (by numbers of atoms, 75/25% by mass). The atmosphere contains trace amounts of methane, water vapor, ammonia, and silicon-based compounds. There are also traces of carbon, ethane, hydrogen sulfide, neon, oxygen, phosphine, and sulfur. The outermost layer of the atmosphere contains crystals of frozen ammonia. This is very close to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the entire solar system was formed.

The interior contains denser materials - by mass it is roughly 71% hydrogen, 24% helium, and 5% other elements. Through infrared and ultraviolet measurements, trace amounts of benzene and other hydrocarbons have also been found. Although the core of Jupiter might be composed of heavier elements, Jupiter lacks a well-defined solid surface like the other giant planets.

Clouds on Jupiter

The outer atmosphere is visibly segregated into several bands at different latitudes, resulting in turbulence and storms along their interacting boundaries. A prominent result is the Great Red Spot, a giant storm that is known to have existed since at least the 17th century when it was first seen by telescope.

Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly ammonium hydrosulfide. The clouds are located in the tropopause and are arranged into bands of different latitudes,

Jupiter from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
The first color movie of Jupiter from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona - From http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA02863

The orange and brown coloration in the clouds of Jupiter are caused by upwelling compounds that change color when they are exposed to ultraviolet light from the Sun.

Moons of Jupiter

Jupiter has 69 known natural satellites.[138] Of these, 53 are less than 10 kilometres in diameter and have only been discovered since 1975. The four largest moons, visible from Earth with binoculars on a clear night, known as the "Galilean moons", are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Missions to Jupiter

Jupiter has been known to astronomers since antiquity. The Romans named it after their god Jupiter.

Jupiter was first visited by Pioneer 10 in 1973 and later by Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Ulysses. The spacecraft Galileo orbited Jupiter for eight years. It is still regularly observed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The ESA JUICE mission - JUpiter ICy moons Explorer - is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme. Planned for launch in 2022 and arrival at Jupiter in 2029, it will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

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