Fast Facts on the Planet Jupiter History Size Atmosphere and More

About the planet Jupiter, fast facts including history, size, atmosphere and more.

JUPITER

In the solar system the largest planet is Jupiter. The mass of this giant is 2 1/2 times the combined mass of all the rest of the solar system, not counting the sun, of course. If Jupiter were slightly larger it might have been a star generating its own light instead of being a reflector.

Like the sun, Jupiter's atmosphere is mainly hydrogen and helium with some methane and ammonia added in. Its atmosphere is strongly banded in appearance. Most remarkable is its "red spot," elliptical in shape and covering an area several times the size of the earth. It varies in color from blood red to intense pink to magenta for some as yet not understood reason. Moreover, the spot moves. At one time it was thought to be the reflection of a surface lava flow but this idea has been discarded as the temperature of this frigid giant is about 225deg.F. below zero, cold enough to freeze any stone.

Jupiter is definitely not a perfect sphere, being considerably flattened at its poles due to its rapid spin. It only takes 9 hours 55 minutes for this massive hulk to make one rotation. This rapid rotation also explains why such a cold planet is such a good radio emitter. Its travel around the sun is considerably slower than earth's, taking 11.86 years.

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