Jupiter Image: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Target Name: Jupiter
Is a satellite of: Sol (our sun)
Mission: Voyager
Spacecraft: Voyager 2
Product Size: 840 samples x 840 lines
Produced By: U.S. Geological Survey
Addition Date: 1998-06-04
Primary Data Set: Voyager EDRs
Full-Res TIFF:  PIA00343.tif (1.194 MB) 
Full-Res JPEG:  PIA00343.jpg (42 kB) 

Click on the image to download a moderately sized image in JPEG format (possibly reduced in size from original).

Original Caption Released with Image:
This processed color image of Jupiter was produced in 1990 by the U.S. Geological Survey from a Voyager image captured in 1979. The colors have been enhanced to bring out detail. Zones of light-colored, ascending clouds alternate with bands of dark, descending clouds. The clouds travel around the planet in alternating eastward and westward belts at speeds of up to 540 kilometers per hour. Tremendous storms as big as Earthly continents surge around the planet. The Great Red Spot (oval shape toward the lower-left) is an enormous anticyclonic storm that drifts along its belt, eventually circling the entire planet.


The fifth planet Jupiter is one of the four gas giants and is the largest planet in our Solar System. Jupiter is usually the fourth brightest object in the sky (after the Sun, the Moon and Venus) however at times Mars appears brighter than Jupiter. Jupiter is 2.5 times more massive than all the other planets in our solar system combined. It is primarily composed of hydrogen with a small proportion of helium and it may have a rocky core. The outer atmosphere is visibly segregated into several bands at different latitudes, resulting in turbulence and storms along their interacting boundaries.
Earth overtakes Jupiter neerly every 400 days as it orbits the Sun. Because the orbit of Jupiter is outside the Earth's the planet always appears nearly fully illuminated when viewed through Earth-based telescopes.
The average distance between Jupiter and the Sun is about 780 million km and it completes an orbit around every 12 years.
The rotation of jupiter is the solar system's fastest, completing a rotation on its axis in less than ten hours; this creates an equatorial bulge easily seen through an amateur telescope.
Because Jupiter is not a solid body, its upper atmosphere undergoes differential rotation. The rotation of Jupiter's polar atmosphere is about 5 minutes longer than that of the equatorial atmosphere.
Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly ammonium hydrosulphide. The clouds are arranged into bands known as tropical regions. These are sub-divided into lighter- and darker belts. The interactions of these circulation patterns cause storms and turbulence.
The zones do fluctuate in size and speed but have remained sufficiently stable throughout time, for astronomers to identify them.
The cloud layer is only about 50 km deep, and consists of at least two decks of clouds: a thick lower deck and a thin clearer region. There may also be a thin layer of water clouds underlying the ammonia layer, as evidenced by flashes of lightning detected in the atmosphere of Jupiter. The water clouds can form thunderstorms when heated by Jupiters core.
The best known storm of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot.
Storms such as this are common within the turbulent atmospheres of gas giants.  Jupiter also has white ovals and brown ovals, which are lesser unnamed storms. White ovals tend to consist of relatively cool clouds within the upper atmosphere. Brown ovals are warmer and located within the "normal cloud layer". Such storms can last for hours or centuries.
Even before Voyager proved that the great red spot was a storm, there was strong evidence that the spot could not be associated with any deeper feature on the planet's surface, as the Spot rotates differentially with respect to the rest of the atmosphere, sometimes faster and sometimes more slowly. During its recorded history it has traveled several times around the planet relative to any possible fixed rotational marker below it.
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.
Surrounding the planet is a faint planetary ring system and a powerful magnetosphere.

Jupiter's magnetic field is fourteen times as strong as Earth's magenetic field, making it the strongest in the solar system. This field is believed to be generated by movements of conducting materials within the metallic hydrogen core.
The field traps a sheet of ionized particles from the solar wind, generating a highly-energetic magnetic field outside the planet. Jupiter has been called the solar system's vacuum cleaner, because of its immense gravity well and location near the inner solar system. It receives the most frequent comet impacts of the solar system's planets. In 1994 comet Shoemaker-Levy 9  collided with Jupiter.
Jupiter has at least 63 natural satellites. Of these, 47 are less than 10 kilometres in diameter and have only been discovered since 1975. The four largest moons, known as the "Galilean moons", are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
The orbits of Io, Europa, and Ganymede, some of the largest satellites in the solar system, form a pattern known as a Laplace resonance; for every four orbits that Io makes around Jupiter, Europa makes exactly two orbits and Ganymede makes exactly one. The eccentricity of their orbits causes regular flexing of the three moons' shapes, with Jupiter's gravity stretching them out as they approach it and allowing them to spring back to more spherical shapes as they swing away. This tidal flexing heats the moons' interiors via friction. This is seen most dramatically in the extraordinary volcanic activity of innermost moon Io.
Before the discoveries of the Voyager missions, Jupiter's moons were arranged neatly into four groups of four, based on commonality of their orbital elements. Since then, the large number of new small outer moons has complicated this picture. There are now thought to be six main groups, although some are more distinct than others.


Moons of Jupiter

1. Io
2. Europa
3. Ganymede
4. Callisto
5. Amalthea
6. Himalia
7. Elara
8. Pasiphae
9. Sinope
10. Lysithea
11. Carme
12. Ananke
13. Leda
14. Thebe
15. Adrastea
16. Metis
17. Callirrhoe
18. Themisto
19. Megaclite
20. Taygete
21. Chaldene
22. Harpalyke
23. Kalyke
24. Iocaste
25. Erinome
26. Isonoe
27. Praxidike
28. Autonoe
29. Thyone
30. Hermippe
31. Aitne
32. Eurydome
33. Euanthe
34. Euporie
35. Orthosie
36. Sponde
37. Kale
38. Pasithee
39. Hegemone
40. Mneme
41. Aoede
42. Thelxinoe
43. Arche
44. Kallichore
45. Helike
46. Carpo
47. Eukelade
48. Cyllene
49. Kore
50. S/2003 J2
51. S/2003 J3
52. S/2003 J4
53. S/2000 J5
54. S/2003 J9
55. S/2003 J10
56. S/2003 J12
57. S/2003 J15
58. S/2003 J16
59. S/2003 J17
60. S/2003 J18
61. S/2003 J19
62. S/2003 J23 

Jupiter: Rings
 Ring Name: 1979 J1R ("Halo")
Distance*: 100,000 - 122, 800 km
Width: 22,800 km

Ring Name: 1979 J2R ("Main")
Distance*: 122,800 - 129,200 km
Width: 6,400 km
Mass: x 1013 kg

Ring Name: 1979 J3R ("Gossamer")
Distance*: 129,200 - 214,200 km
Width: 85,000 km

* The distance is measured from the planet center to the start of the ring.  
Jupiter's ring was discovered by Voyager 1 in a single image that was targeted specifically to search for a faint ring system. Subsequently, Voyager 2 was reprogrammed to take a more complete set of images. The ring is now known to be composed of three major components. The main ring is about 7000 km wide and has an abrupt outer boundary 129, 130 km from the center of the planet. The main ring encompasses the orbits of two small moons, Adrastea and Metis, which may act as the source for the dust that makes up most of the ring. At its inner edge the main ring merges gradually into the halo. The halo is a broad, faint torus of material about 20,000 km thick and extending halfway from the main ring down to the planet's cloudtops. Just outside the main ring is the broad and exceedingly faint gossamer ring, which extends out beyond the orbit of the moon Amalthea.
Unlike Saturn's intricate and complex ring patterns, Jupiter has a single ring that is almost uniform in its structure.
It is probably composed of dust particles less than 10 microns in diameter - about the size of cigarette smoke particles. It extends to an outer edge of about 129,000 kilometers (80,161 miles) from the center of the planet and inward to about 30,000 kilometers (18,642 miles). The origin of the ring is probably from micrometeorite bombardment of the tiny moons orbiting within the ring.
Jupiter's rings and moons exist within an intense radiation belt of electrons and ions trapped in the planet's magnetic field. These particles and fields comprise the jovian magnetosphere or magnetic environment, which extends 3 to 7 million kilometers (1.9 to 4.3 million miles) toward the Sun, and stretches in a windsock shape at least as far as Saturn's orbit - a distance of 750 million kilometers (466 million miles).
Reference: USGS Astrogeology: Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature - Ring Nomenclature
Beginning in 1973, several spacecraft have performed planetary fly-by maneuvers that brought them within observation range of Jupiter. The Pioneer missions obtained the first close-up images of Jupiter's atmosphere and several of its moons.
Six years later, the Voyager missions vastly improved the understanding of the Galilean moons and discovered Jupiter's rings. They also confirmed that the Great Red Spot was anticyclonic. Comparison of images showed that the Red Spot had changed hue since the Pioneer missions, turning from orange to dark brown. A torus of ionized atoms was discovered along Io's orbital path, and volcanoes were found on the moon's surface, some in the process of erupting.
The next mission to encounter Jupiter, the Ulysses solar probe, performed a fly-by maneuver in order to attain a polar orbit around the Sun. During this pass the spacecraft conducted studies on Jupiter's magnetosphere.
In 2000, the Cassini probe while on its way to Saturn, flew by Jupiter and provided some of the highest-resolution images ever made of the planet. The spacecraft also captured an image of the moon Himalia.
The New Horizons probe while on its way to Pluto flew by Jupiter for gravity assist.  The probe's cameras measured plasma output from volcanoes on Io and studied all four Galilean moons in detail, as well as making long-distance observations of the outer moons Himalia and Elara.
So far the only spacecraft to orbit Jupiter is the Galileo orbiter, which went into orbit around Jupiter on December 7, 1995. It orbited the planet for over seven years, conducting multiple flybys of all of the Galilean moons and Amalthea. The spacecraft also witnessed the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 as it approached Jupiter in 1994, giving a unique vantage point for the event. The information gained about the Jovian system from Galileo was extensive.
An atmospheric probe was released from the spacecraft in July 1995, entering the planet's atmosphere on December 7. It parachuted through 150 km of the atmosphere, collecting data for 57.6 minutes, before being crushed by the pressure. It would have melted thereafter, and possibly vaporized. The Galileo orbiter itself experienced a more rapid version of the same fate when it was deliberately steered into the planet on September 2003 at a speed of over 50 km/s.
NASA is planning a mission to study Jupiter in detail from a polar orbit. Named Juno, the spacecraft is planned to launch by 2011.
Because of the possibility of a liquid ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa, there has been great interest in studying the icy moons in detail. A mission proposed by NASA was dedicated to doing so. The JIMO (Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter) was expected to be launched sometime after 2012. However, the mission was deemed too ambitious and its funding was cancelled (for now).

Jupiter: Facts & Figures  
Discovered By
  Known by the Ancients
Date of Discovery
Average Distance from the Sun
  Metric: 778,412,020 km
English: 483,682,810 miles
Scientific Notation: 7.7841202 x 108 km (5.20336 A.U.) 
By Comparison: 5.203 x Earth
Perihelion (closest)
  Metric: 740,742,600 km
English: 460,276,100 miles
Scientific Notation: 7.407426 x 108 km (4.952 A.U.) 
By Comparison: 5.036 x Earth
Aphelion (farthest)
  Metric: 816,081,400 km
English: 507,089,500 miles
Scientific Notation: 8.160814 x 108 km (5.455 A.U.) 
By Comparison: 5.366 x Earth
Equatorial Radius
  Metric: 71,492 km
English: 44,423 miles
Scientific Notation: 7.1492 x 104 km
By Comparison: 11.209 x Earth
Equatorial Circumference
  Metric: 449,197 km
English: 279,118 miles
Scientific Notation: 4.49197 x 105 km
  Metric: 1,425,500,000,000,000 km3
English: 342,000,000,000,000 mi3
Scientific Notation: 1.4255 x 1015 km3
By Comparison: 1316 x Earth
  Metric: 1,898,700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
Scientific Notation: 1.8987 x 1027 kg
By Comparison: 317.82 x Earth
  Metric: 1.33 g/cm3
By Comparison: 0.241 x Earth
Surface Area
  Metric: 62,179,600,000 km2
English: 24,007,700,000 square miles
Scientific Notation: 6.21796 x 1010 km2
By Comparison: 121.9 x Earth
Equatorial Surface Gravity
  Metric: 20.87 m/s2
English: 68.48 ft/s2
By Comparison: If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh 214 pounds on Jupiter.
Escape Velocity
  Metric: 214,300 km/h
English: 133,200 mph
Scientific Notation: 59,540 m/s
By Comparison: 5.33 x Earth
Sidereal Rotation Period (Length of Day)
  0.41354 Earth days 
9.925 hours 
By Comparison: 0.4147 x Earth
Sidereal Orbit Period (Length of Year)
  11.8565 Earth years 
4330.6 Earth days 
Mean Orbit Velocity
  Metric: 47,051 km/h
English: 29,236 mph
Scientific Notation: 13,069.7 m/s
By Comparison: 0.439 x Earth
Orbital Eccentricity
By Comparison: 2.90 x Earth
Orbital Inclination to Ecliptic
  1.305 degrees
Equatorial Inclination to Orbit
  3.12 degrees
By Comparison: 0.0178 x Earth
Orbital Circumference
  Metric: 4,774,000,000 km
English: 2,996,000,000 miles
Scientific Notation: 4.774 x 109 km
By Comparison: 5.165 x Earth
Effective Temperature
  Metric: -148 °C
English: -234 °F
Scientific Notation: 125 K
Atmospheric Constituents
  Hydrogen, Helium
Scientific Notation: H2, He


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