Jupiter's orbit lies beyond the asteroid belt at a mean distance of 483.6 million mi (778.3 million km) from the sun; its period of revolution is 11.86 years. In order from the sun it is the first of the Jovian planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—very large, massive planets of relatively low density, having rapid rotation and a thick, opaque atmosphere. Jupiter has a diameter of 88,815 mi (142,984 km), more than 11 times that of the earth. Its mass is 318 times that of the earth and about 21/2 times the mass of all other planets combined.
The atmosphere of Jupiter is composed mainly of hydrogen, helium, methane, and ammonia. However, the concentration of nitrogen, carbon, sulfur, argon, xenon, and krypton—as measured by an instrument package dropped by the space probe Galileo during its 1995 flyby of the planet—is more than twice what was expected, raising questions about the accepted theory of Jupiter's formation. The atmosphere appears to be divided into a number of light and dark bands parallel to its equator and shows a range of complex features, including a storm called the Great Red Spot. Located in the southern hemisphere and varying from c.15,600 to 25,000 mi (25,000 to 40,000 km) in one direction and 7,500 to 10,000 mi (12,000 to 16,000 km) in the other, the storm rotates counterclockwise and has been observed ever since 1664, when Robert Hooke first noted it. Also in the southern hemisphere is the Little Red Spot, c.8,000 mi (13,000 km) across. It formed from three white-colored storms that developed in the 1940s, merged in 1998-2000, and became clearly red by 2006. Analysis of the data obtained when massive pieces of the comet Shoemaker Levy 9 plunged into Jupiter in 1994 has extended our knowledge of the Jovian atmosphere.
Jupiter has no solid rock surface. One theory pictures a gradual transition from the outer ammonia clouds to a thick layer of frozen gases and finally to a liquid or solid hydrogen mantle. Beneath that Jupiter probably has a core of rocky material with a mass 10-15 times that of the earth. The spot and other markings of the atmosphere also provide evidence for Jupiter's rapid rotation, which has a period of about 9 hr 55 min. This rotation causes a polar flattening of over 6%. The temperature ranges from about -190°F; (-124°C;) for the visible surface of the atmosphere, to 9°F; (-13°C;) at lower cloud levels; localized regions reach as high as 40°F; (4°C;) at still lower cloud levels near the equator. Jupiter radiates about four times as much heat energy as it receives from the sun, suggesting an internal heat source. This energy is thought to be due in part to a slow contraction of the planet. Jupiter is also characterized by intense nonthermal radio emission; in the 15-m range it is the strongest radio source in the sky. Jupiter has a huge asymetrical magnetic field, extending past the orbit of Saturn in one direction but far less in the direction of the sun. This magnetosphere traps high levels of energetic particles far more intense than those found within earth's Van Allen radiation belts. Six space probes have encountered the Jovian system: Pioneers 10 and 11 (1973 and 1974), Voyagers 1 and 2 (both 1979), Ulysses (1992), and Galileo (1995-2003).
At least 63 natural satellites orbit Jupiter. They are conveniently divided into six main groups (in order of increasing distance from the planet): Amalthea, Galilean, Himalia, Ananke, Carme, and Pasiphae. The first group is comprised of the four innermost satellites—Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebe. The red color of Amalthea (diameter: 117 mi/189 km), a small, elongated satellite discovered (1892) by Edward Barnard, probably results from a coating of sulfur particles ejected from Io. Metis (diameter: 25 mi/40 km), Adrastea (diameter: 12 mi/20 km), and Thebe (diameter: 62 mi/100 km) are all oddly shaped and were discovered in 1979 in photographs returned to earth by the Voyager 1 space probe. Metis and Adrastea orbit close to Jupiter's thin ring system; material ejected from these moons helps maintain the ring.
The four largest satellites—Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto—were discovered by Galileo in 1610, shortly after he invented the telescope, and are known as the Galilean satellite group. Io (diameter: 2,255 mi/3,630 km), the closest to Jupiter of the four, is the most active geologically, with 30 active volcanoes that are probably energized by the tidal effects of Jupiter's enormous mass. Europa (diameter: 1,960 mi/3,130 km) is a white, highly reflecting body whose smooth surface is covered with dark streaks up to 43 mi/70 km in width and from several hundred to several thousand miles in length. Ganymede (diameter: 3,268 mi/5,262 km), second most distant of the four and the largest satellite in the solar system, has heavily cratered regions, tens of miles across, that are surrounded by younger, grooved terrain. Callisto (diameter: 3,000 mi/4,806 km), the most distant and the least active geologically of the four, has a heavily cratered surface. Themisto (diameter: 5 mi/8 km) orbits Jupiter midway between the Galilean and next main group of satellites, the Himalias. The Himalia group consists of five tightly clustered satellites with orbits outside that of Callisto—Leda (diameter: 6 mi/10 km), Himalia (diameter: 106 mi/170 km), Lysithea (diameter: 15 mi/24 km), Elara (diameter: 50 mi/80 km), and S/2000 J11 (diameter: 2.5 mi/4 km). These 14 inner satellites are regular, that is, their orbits are relatively circular, near equatorial, and prograde, i.e., moving in the same orbital direction as the planet. Almost all of the remainder are irregular in that their orbits are large, elliptical, inclined to that of the planet, and usually retrograde, i.e., motion opposite to that of the planet's rotation. (Jupiter's irregular satellites are distinguished from the regular by the spelling of their names, which all end in the letter "e".)
Situated between the Himalia and Ananke groups is Carpo (diameter: 2 mi/3 km), which like Thermisto doesn't seem to fit into any of the main groups. The Ananke group comprises 17 satellites, which share similar orbits and range from 1.2 to 2.5 mi (2-4 km) in diameter except for two: S/2003 J12, Euporie, Orthosie, Euanthe, Thyone, Mneme, Harpalyke, Hermippe, Praxidike (diameter: 4.5 mi/7 km), Thelexinoe, Iocaste, Ananke (diameter: 12.5 mi/20 km), S/2003 J16, S/2003 J3, S/2003 J18, Helike, and S/2003 J15.
Like the Ananke group, the Carme group is remarkably homogeneous. It comprises 17 satellites, which share similar orbits and, except for one, range from 1.2 to 3 mi (2-5 km) in diameter: Arche, Pasithee, Chaldene, Kale, Isonoe, Aitne, Erinome, Taygete, Carme (diameter: 28 mi/46 km), Kalyke, Eukelade, Kallichore, S/2003 J17, S/2003 J10, S/2003 J9, S/2003 J5, and S/2003 J19. The most distant of the groups from the planet is the Pasiphae, which comprises 14 widely dispersed satellites that, except for two, range from 1.2 to 4.5 mi (2-7 km) in diameter: S/2000 J12, Eurydome, Autonoe, Sponde, Pasiphae (diameter: 36 mi/58 km), Megaclite, Sinope (diameter: 23 mi/38 km), Hegemone, Aode, Callirrhoe, Cyllene, S/2000 J23, S/2000 J4, and S/2000 J14. The odd orbits of the irregular satellites indicate that they were captured after Jupiter's formation. Because they are small, irregularly shaped, and clustered into groups, it is believed that they originated as parts of a larger body that either shattered due to Jupiter's enormous gravity or broke apart in a collision with another body.
Jupiter has three rings—Halo, Main, and Gossamer—similar to those of Saturn but much smaller and fainter. An intense radiation belt lies between the rings and Jupiter's uppermost atmospheric layers.
Chief god of ancient Rome and Italy. Like his Greek counterpart, Zeus, he was worshiped as a sky god. With Juno and Minerva he was a member of the triad of deities traditionally believed to have been introduced into Rome by the Etruscans. Jupiter was associated with treaties, alliances, and oaths; he was the protecting deity of the republic and later of the reigning emperor. His oldest temple was on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. He was worshiped on the summits of hills throughout Italy, and all places struck by lightning became his property. His sacred tree was the oak.
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Jupiter (pronounced ) is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet within the Solar System. It is two and a half times as massive as all of the other planets in our Solar System combined. Jupiter is classified as a gas giant, along with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Together, these four planets are sometimes referred to as the Jovian planets, where Jovian is the adjectival form of Jupiter.
The planet was known by astronomers of ancient times and was associated with the mythology and religious beliefs of many cultures. The Romans named the planet after the Roman god Jupiter. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter can reach an apparent magnitude of −2.8, making it the third brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus. (However, at certain points in its orbit, Mars can briefly exceed Jupiter's brightness.)
The planet Jupiter is primarily composed of hydrogen with a small proportion of helium; it may also have a rocky core of heavier elements under high pressure. Because of its rapid rotation, Jupiter's shape is that of an oblate spheroid (it possesses a slight but noticeable bulge around the equator). 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. Surrounding the planet is a faint planetary ring system and a powerful magnetosphere. There are also at least 63 moons, including the four large moons called the Galilean moons that were first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. Ganymede, the largest of these moons, has a diameter greater than that of the planet Mercury.
Jupiter has been explored on several occasions by robotic spacecraft, most notably during the early Pioneer and Voyager flyby missions and later by the Galileo orbiter. The latest probe to visit Jupiter was the Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft in late February 2007. The probe used the gravity from Jupiter to increase its speed and adjust its trajectory toward Pluto, thereby saving years of travel. Future targets for exploration include the possible ice-covered liquid ocean on the Jovian moon Europa.
The atmospheric proportions of hydrogen and helium are very close to the theoretical composition of the primordial solar nebula. However, neon in the upper atmosphere only consists of 20 parts per million by mass, which is about a tenth as abundant as in the Sun. Helium is also depleted, although to a lesser degree. This depletion may be a result of precipitation of these elements into the interior of the planet. Abundances of heavier inert gases in Jupiter's atmosphere are about two to three times that of the sun.
Based on spectroscopy, Saturn is thought to be similar in composition to Jupiter, but the other gas giants Uranus and Neptune have relatively much less hydrogen and helium. However, because of the lack of atmospheric entry probes, high quality abundance numbers of the heavier elements are lacking for the outer planets beyond Jupiter.
Jupiter is 2.5 times more massive than all the other planets in our Solar System combined — this is so massive that its barycenter with the Sun actually lies above the Sun's surface (1.068 solar radii from the Sun's center). Although this planet dwarfs the Earth (with a diameter 11 times as great) it is considerably less dense. Jupiter's volume is equal to 1,317 Earths, yet is only 318 times as massive. A Jupiter mass (MJ) is used to describe masses of other gas giant planets, particularly extrasolar planets.
Theoretical models indicate that if Jupiter had much more mass than it does at present, the planet would shrink. For small changes in mass, the radius would not change appreciably, and above about four Jupiter masses the interior would become so much more compressed under the increased gravitation force that the planet's volume would actually decrease despite the increasing amount of matter. As a result, Jupiter is thought to have about as large a diameter as a planet of its composition and evolutionary history can achieve. The process of further shrinkage with increasing mass would continue until appreciable stellar ignition is achieved as in high-mass brown dwarfs around 50 Jupiter masses. This has led some astronomers to term it a "failed star", although it is unclear whether or not the processes involved in the formation of planets like Jupiter are similar to the processes involved in the formation of multiple star systems.
Although Jupiter would need to be about 75 times as massive to fuse hydrogen and become a star, the smallest red dwarf is only about 30 percent larger in radius than Jupiter. In spite of this, Jupiter still radiates more heat than it receives from the Sun. The amount of heat produced inside the planet is nearly equal to the total solar radiation it receives. This additional heat radiation is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism through adiabatic contraction. This process results in the planet shrinking by about 2 cm each year. When it was first formed, Jupiter was much hotter and was about twice its current diameter.
Jupiter is thought to consist of a dense core with a mixture of elements, a surrounding layer of liquid metallic hydrogen with some helium, and an outer layer predominantly of molecular hydrogen. Beyond this basic outline, there is still considerable uncertainty. The core is often described as rocky, but its detailed composition is unknown, as are the properties of materials at the temperatures and pressures of those depths (see below). In 1997, the existence of the core was suggested by gravitational measurements. indicating a mass of from 12 to 45 times the Earth's mass or roughly 3%-15% of the total mass of Jupiter. The presence of a core during at least part of Jupiter's history is suggested by models of planetary formation involving initial formation of a rocky or icy core that is massive enough to collect its bulk of hydrogen and helium from the protosolar nebula. Assuming it did exist, it may have shrunk as convection currents of hot liquid metallic hydrogen mixed with the molten core and carried its contents to higher levels in the planetary interior. A core may now be entirely absent, as gravitational measurements aren't yet precise enough to rule that possibility out entirely.
The uncertainty of the models is tied to the error margin in hitherto measured parameters: one of the rotational coefficients (J6) used to describe the planet's gravitational moment, Jupiter's equatorial radius, and its temperature at 1 bar pressure. The JUNO mission, scheduled for launch in 2011, is expected to narrow down the value of these parameters, and thereby make progress on the problem of the core.
The core region is surrounded by dense metallic hydrogen, which extends outward to about 78 percent of the radius of the planet. Rain-like droplets of helium and neon precipitate downward through this layer, depleting the abundance of these elements in the upper atmosphere.
Above the layer of metallic hydrogen lies a transparent interior atmosphere of liquid hydrogen and gaseous hydrogen, with the gaseous portion extending downward from the cloud layer to a depth of about 1,000 km. Instead of a clear boundary or surface between these different phases of hydrogen, there is probably a smooth gradation from gas to liquid as one descends. This smooth transition happens whenever the temperature is above the critical temperature, which for hydrogen is only 33 K (see hydrogen).
The temperature and pressure inside Jupiter increase steadily toward the core. At the phase transition region where liquid hydrogen (heated beyond its critical point) becomes metallic, it is believed the temperature is 10,000 K and the pressure is 200 GPa. The temperature at the core boundary is estimated to be 36,000 K and the interior pressure is roughly 3,000–4,500 GPa.
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, known as tropical regions. These are sub-divided into lighter-hued zones and darker belts. The interactions of these conflicting circulation patterns cause storms and turbulence. Wind speeds of 100 m/s (360 km/h) are common in zonal jets. The zones have been observed to vary in width, color and intensity from year to year, but they have remained sufficiently stable for astronomers to give them identifying designations.
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. (Water is a polar molecule that can carry a charge, so it is capable of creating the charge separation needed to produce lightning.) These electrical discharges can be up to a thousand times as powerful as lightning on the Earth. The water clouds can form thunderstorms driven by the heat rising from the interior.
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. The exact makeup remains uncertain, but the substances are believed to be phosphorus, sulfur or possibly hydrocarbons. These colorful compounds, known as chromophores, mix with the warmer, lower deck of clouds. The zones are formed when rising convection cells form crystallizing ammonia that masks out these lower clouds from view.
Jupiter's low axial tilt means that the poles constantly receive less solar radiation than at the planet's equatorial region. Convection within the interior of the planet transports more energy to the poles, however, balancing out the temperatures at the cloud layer.
The best known feature of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a persistent anticyclonic storm located 22° south of the equator that is larger than Earth. It is known to have been in existence since at least 1831, and possibly since 1665. Mathematical models suggest that the storm is stable and may be a permanent feature of the planet. The storm is large enough to be visible through Earth-based telescopes.
The oval object rotates counterclockwise, with a period of about six days. The Great Red Spot's dimensions are 24–40,000 km × 12–14,000 km. It is large enough to contain two or three planets of Earth's diameter. The maximum altitude of this storm is about 8 km above the surrounding cloudtops.
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 as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.
Even before Voyager proved that the feature 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.
In 2000, an atmospheric feature formed in the southern hemisphere that is similar in appearance to the Great Red Spot, but smaller in size. This was created when several smaller, white oval-shaped storms merged to form a single feature—these three smaller white ovals were first observed in 1938. The merged feature was named Oval BA, and has been nicknamed Red Spot Junior. It has since increased in intensity and changed color from white to red.
Jupiter has a faint planetary ring system composed of three main segments: an inner torus of particles known as the halo, a relatively bright main ring, and an outer "gossamer" ring. These rings appear to be made of dust, rather than ice as is the case for Saturn's rings. The main ring is probably made of material ejected from the satellites Adrastea and Metis. Material that would normally fall back to the moon is pulled into Jupiter because of its strong gravitational pull. The orbit of the material veers towards Jupiter and new material is added by additional impacts. In a similar way, the moons Thebe and Amalthea probably produce the two distinct components of the gossamer ring.
At about 75 Jupiter radii from the planet, the interaction of the magnetosphere with the solar wind generates a bow shock. Surrounding Jupiter's magnetosphere is a magnetopause, located at the inner edge of a magnetosheath, where the planet's magnetic field becomes weak and disorganized. The solar wind interacts with these regions, elongating the magnetosphere on Jupiter's lee side and extending it outward until it nearly reaches the orbit of Saturn. The four largest moons of Jupiter all orbit within the magnetosphere, which protects them from the solar wind.
The magnetosphere of Jupiter is responsible for intense episodes of radio emission from the planet's polar regions. Volcanic activity on the Jovian moon Io (see below) injects gas into Jupiter's magnetosphere, producing a torus of particles about the planet. As Io moves through this torus, the interaction generates Alfven waves that carry ionized matter into the polar regions of Jupiter. As a result, radio waves are generated through a cyclotron maser mechanism, and the energy is transmitted out along a cone-shaped surface. When the Earth intersects this cone, the radio emissions from Jupiter can exceed the solar radio output.
The axial tilt of Jupiter is relatively small: only 3.13°. As a result this planet does not experience significant seasonal changes, in contrast to Earth and Mars for example.
Jupiter's rotation is the fastest of all the Solar System's planets, completing a rotation on its axis in slightly less than ten hours; this creates an equatorial bulge easily seen through an Earth-based amateur telescope. This rotation requires a centripetal acceleration at the equator of about 1.67 m/s², compared to the equatorial surface gravity of 24.79 m/s²; thus the net acceleration felt at the equatorial surface is only about 23.12 m/s². The planet is shaped as an oblate spheroid, meaning that the diameter across its equator is longer than the diameter measured between its poles. On Jupiter, the equatorial diameter is 9275 km longer than the diameter measured through the poles.
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; three "systems" are used as frames of reference, particularly when graphing the motion of atmospheric features. System I applies from the latitudes 10° N to 10° S; its period is the planet's shortest, at 9h 50m 30.0s. System II applies at all latitudes north and south of these; its period is 9h 55m 40.6s. System III was first defined by radio astronomers, and corresponds to the rotation of the planet's magnetosphere; its period is Jupiter's "official" rotation.
Earth overtakes Jupiter every 398.9 days as it orbits the Sun, a duration called the synodic period. As it does so, Jupiter appears to undergo retrograde motion with respect to the background stars. That is, for a period of time Jupiter seems to move backward in the night sky, performing a looping motion.
Jupiter's 12-year orbital period corresponds to the dozen constellations in the zodiac. As a result, each time Jupiter reaches opposition it has advanced eastward by about the width of a zodiac constellation. The orbital period of Jupiter is also about two-fifths the orbital period of Saturn, forming a 5:2 orbital resonance between the two largest planets in the Solar System.
Because the orbit of Jupiter is outside the Earth's, the phase angle of Jupiter as viewed from the Earth never exceeds 11.5°, and is almost always close to zero. That is, the planet always appears nearly fully illuminated when viewed through Earth-based telescopes. It was only during spacecraft missions to Jupiter that crescent views of the planet were obtained.
Note, however, that Chinese historian of astronomy, Xi Zezong, has claimed that Gan De, a Chinese astronomer, made this discovery of one of Jupiter's moons in 362 BC with the unaided eye, nearly two millennia before any Europeans. Galileo's was also the first discovery of a celestial motion not apparently centered on the Earth. It was a major point in favor of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the motions of the planets; Galileo's outspoken support of the Copernican theory placed him under the threat of the Inquisition.
During 1660s, Cassini used a new telescope to discover spots and colorful bands on Jupiter and observed that the planet appeared oblate; that is, flattened at the poles. He was also able to estimate the rotation period of the planet. In 1690 Cassini noticed that the atmosphere undergoes differential rotation.
The Great Red Spot, a prominent oval-shaped feature in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter, may have been observed as early as 1664 by Robert Hooke and in 1665 by Giovanni Cassini, although this is disputed. The pharmacist Heinrich Schwabe produced the earliest known drawing to show details of the Great Red Spot in 1831.
The Red Spot was reportedly lost from sight on several occasions between 1665 and 1708 before becoming quite conspicuous in 1878. It was recorded as fading again in 1883 and at the start of the twentieth century.
Both Giovanni Borelli and Cassini made careful tables of the motions of the Jovian moons, allowing predictions of the times when the moons would pass before or behind the planet. By the 1670s, however, it was observed that when Jupiter was on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth, these events would occur about 17 minutes later than expected. Ole Rømer deduced that sight is not instantaneous (a finding that Cassini had earlier rejected), and this timing discrepancy was used to estimate the speed of light.
In 1892, E. E. Barnard observed a fifth satellite of Jupiter with the refractor at Lick Observatory in California. The discovery of this relatively small object, a testament to his keen eyesight, quickly made him famous. The moon was later named Amalthea. It was the last planetary moon to be discovered directly by visual observation. An additional eight satellites were subsequently discovered prior to the flyby of the Voyager 1 probe in 1979.
In 1932, Rupert Wildt identified absorption bands of ammonia and methane in the spectra of Jupiter.
Three long-lived anticyclonic features termed white ovals were observed in 1938. For several decades they remained as separate features in the atmosphere, sometimes approaching each other but never merging. Finally, two of the ovals merged in 1998, then absorbed the third in 2000, becoming Oval BA.
In 1955, Bernard Burke and Kenneth Franklin detected bursts of radio signals coming from Jupiter at 22.2 MHz. The period of these bursts matched the rotation of the planet, and they were also able to use this information to refine the rotation rate. Radio bursts from Jupiter were found to come in two forms: long bursts (or L-bursts) lasting up to several seconds, and short bursts (or S-bursts) that had a duration of less than a hundredth of a second.
Scientists discovered that there were three forms of radio signals being transmitted from Jupiter.
During the period July 16, 1994 to July 22, 1994, over 20 fragments from the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter's southern hemisphere, providing the first direct observation of a collision between two Solar System objects. This impact provided useful data on the composition of Jupiter's atmosphere.
|Pioneer 10||December 3, 1973||130,000 km|
|Pioneer 11||December 4, 1974||34,000 km|
|Voyager 1||March 5, 1979||349,000 km|
|Voyager 2||July 9, 1979||570,000 km|
|Ulysses||February 1992||409,000 km|
|February 2004||240,000,000 km|
|Cassini||December 30, 2000||10,000,000 km|
|New Horizons||February 28, 2007||2,304,535 km|
Beginning in 1973, several spacecraft have performed planetary flyby 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. They discovered that the radiation fields in the vicinity of the planet were much stronger than expected, but both spacecraft managed to survive in that environment. The trajectories of these spacecraft were used to refine the mass estimates of the Jovian system. Occultations of the radio signals by the planet resulted in better measurements of Jupiter's diameter and the amount of polar flattening.
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. As the spacecraft passed behind the planet, it observed flashes of lightning in the night side atmosphere.
The next mission to encounter Jupiter, the Ulysses solar probe, performed a flyby maneuver in order to attain a polar orbit around the Sun. During this pass the spacecraft conducted studies on Jupiter's magnetosphere. However, since Ulysses has no cameras, no images were taken. A second flyby six years later was at a much greater distance.
In 2000, the Cassini probe, en route to Saturn, flew by Jupiter and provided some of the highest-resolution images ever made of the planet. On December 19, 2000, the spacecraft captured an image of the moon Himalia, but the resolution was too low to show surface details.
The New Horizons probe, en route to Pluto, flew by Jupiter for gravity assist. Closest approach was on February 28, 2007. 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. Imaging of the Jovian system began September 4, 2006.
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. However, while the information gained about the Jovian system from Galileo was extensive, its originally-designed capacity was limited by the failed deployment of its high-gain radio transmitting antenna.
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 to which it was subjected by that time (about 22 times Earth normal, at a temperature of 153 °C). 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 21, 2003 at a speed of over 50 km/s, in order to avoid any possibility of it crashing into and possibly contaminating Europa—a moon which has been hypothesized to have the possibility of harboring life.
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 canceled. A European Jovian Europa Orbiter mission is being studied, but its launch is unscheduled.
Jupiter has 63 named 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 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 Io (which is subject to the strongest tidal forces), and to a lesser degree in the geological youth of Europa's surface (indicating recent resurfacing of the moon's exterior).
|The Galilean moons, compared to Earth's Moon|
(Pronunciation respelling key)
|Diameter||Mass||Orbital radius||Orbital period|
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.
A basic sub-division is a grouping of the eight inner regular moons, which have nearly circular orbits near the plane of Jupiter's equator and are believed to have formed with Jupiter. The remainder of the moons consist of an unknown number of small irregular moons with elliptical and inclined orbits, which are believed to be captured asteroids or fragments of captured asteroids. Irregular moons that belong to a group share similar orbital elements and thus may have a common origin, perhaps as a larger moon or captured body that broke up.
|Regular moons||Inner group||The inner group of four small moons all have diameters of less than 200 km, orbit at radii less than 200,000 km, and have orbital inclinations of less than half a degree.|
|Galilean moons||These four moons, discovered by Galileo Galilei and by Simon Marius in parallel, orbit between 400,000 and 2,000,000 km, and include some of the largest moons in the Solar System.|
|Irregular moons||Themisto||This is a single moon belonging to a group of its own, orbiting halfway between the Galilean moons and the Himalia group.|
|Himalia group||A tightly clustered group of moons with orbits around 11,000,000–12,000,000 km from Jupiter.|
|Carpo||Another isolated case; at the inner edge of the Ananke group, it revolves in the direct sense.|
|Ananke group||This group has rather indistinct borders, averaging 21,276,000 km from Jupiter with an average inclination of 149 degrees.|
|Carme group||A fairly distinct group that averages 23,404,000 km from Jupiter with an average inclination of 165 degrees.|
|Pasiphaë group||A dispersed and only vaguely distinct group that covers all the outermost moons.|
In addition to its moons, Jupiter's gravitational field controls numerous asteroids that have settled into the regions of the Lagrangian points preceding and following Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. These are known as the Trojan asteroids, and are divided into Greek and Trojan "camps" to commemorate the Iliad. The first of these, 588 Achilles, was discovered by Max Wolf in 1906; since then more than two thousand have been discovered. The largest is 624 Hektor.
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 (SL9, formally designated D/1993 F2) collided with Jupiter and gave information about the structure of Jupiter. It was thought that the planet served to partially shield the inner system from cometary bombardment. However, recent computer simulations suggest that Jupiter doesn't cause a net decrease in the number of comets that pass through the inner Solar System, as its gravity perturbs their orbits inward in roughly the same numbers that it accretes or ejects them.
The majority of short-period comets belong to the Jupiter family—defined as comets with semi-major axes smaller than Jupiter's. Jupiter family comets are believed to form in the Kuiper belt outside the orbit of Neptune. During close encounters with Jupiter their orbits are perturbed into a smaller period and then circularized by regular gravitational interaction with the Sun and Jupiter.
It is considered highly unlikely that there is any Earth-like life on Jupiter, as there is only a small amount of water in the atmosphere and any possible solid surface deep within Jupiter would be under extraordinary pressures. However, in 1976, before the Voyager missions, it was hypothesized that ammonia- or water-based life, such as the so-called atmospheric beasts, could evolve in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. This hypothesis is based on the ecology of terrestrial seas which have simple photosynthetic plankton at the top level, fish at lower levels feeding on these creatures, and marine predators which hunt the fish.
The Romans named it after Jupiter (Iuppiter, Iūpiter) (also called Jove), the principal god of Roman mythology, whose name comes from the Proto-Indo-European vocative form *dyeu ph2ter, meaning "god-father." The astronomical symbol for the planet, , is a stylized representation of the god's lightning bolt. The Greek equivalent Zeus supplies the root zeno-, used to form some Jupiter-related words, such as zenographic.
Jovian is the adjectival form of Jupiter. The older adjectival form jovial, employed by astrologers in the Middle Ages, has come to mean "happy" or "merry," moods ascribed to Jupiter's astrological influence.
The Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese referred to the planet as the wood star, 木星, based on the Chinese Five Elements. The Greeks called it Φαέθων, Phaethon, "blazing". In Vedic Astrology, Hindu astrologers named the planet after Brihaspati, the religious teacher of the gods, and often called it "Guru," which literally means the "Heavy One". In the English language Thursday is rendered as Thor's day, with Thor being associated with the planet Jupiter in Germanic mythology.