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Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and is the largest one in the solar system. If Jupiter were hollow, more than one thousand Earths could fit inside. It also contains more matter than all of the other planets combined. It has a mass of 1.9 x 1027 kg and is 142,800 kilometers (88,736 miles) across the equator. Jupiter possesses 28 know satellites, four of which - Callisto, Europa, Ganymede and Io - were observed by Galileo as long ago as 1610. Another 12 satellites have been recently discovered and given provisional designators until they are officially confirmed and named. There is a ring system, but it is very faint and is totally invisible from the Earth. (The rings were discovered in 1979 by Voyager 1.) The atmosphere is very deep, perhaps comprising the whole planet, and is somewhat like the Sun. It is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, with small amounts of methane, ammonia, water vapor and other compounds. At great depths within Jupiter, the pressure is so great that the hydrogen atoms are broken up and the electrons are freed so that the resulting atoms consist of bare protons. This produces a state in which the hydrogen becomes metallic.

Colorful latitudinal bands, atmospheric clouds and storms illustrate Jupiter's dynamic weather systems. The cloud patterns change within hours or days. The Great Red Spot is a complex storm moving in a counter-clockwise direction. At the outer edge, material appears to rotate in four to six days; near the center, motions are small and nearly random in direction. An array of other smaller storms and eddies can be found through out the banded clouds.

Auroral emissions, similar to Earth's northern lights, were observed in the polar regions of Jupiter. The auroral emissions appear to be related to material from Io that spirals along magnetic field lines to fall into Jupiter's atmosphere. Cloud-top lightning bolts, similar to superbolts in Earth's high atmosphere, were also observed.

Jupiter Statistics
 Mass (kg)1.900e+27 
 Mass (Earth = 1)3.1794e+02 
 Equatorial radius (km)71,492 
 Equatorial radius (Earth = 1)1.1209e+01 
 Mean density (gm/cm^3)1.33 
 Mean distance from the Sun (km)778,330,000 
 Mean distance from the Sun (Earth = 1)5.2028 
 Rotational period (days)0.41354 
 Orbital period (days)4332.71 
 Mean orbital velocity (km/sec)13.07 
 Orbital eccentricity0.0483 
 Tilt of axis (degrees)3.13 
 Orbital inclination (degrees)1.308 
 Equatorial surface gravity (m/sec^2)22.88 
 Equatorial escape velocity (km/sec)59.56 
 Visual geometric albedo0.52 
 Magnitude (Vo)-2.70 
 Mean cloud temperature-121°C 
 Atmospheric pressure (bars)0.7 
 Atmospheric composition

Copyright © 1997-2001 by Calvin J. Hamilton.All rights reserved.