A Not so Small Piece to our Solar System


NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Spa

Jupiter is the king of the solar system, more massive than all of the other solar-system planets combined. Although astronomers have been observing the gas-giant planet for hundreds of years, it still remains a mysterious world. Astronomers don't have definitive answers, for example, of why cloud bands and storms change colors, or why storms shrink in size. The most prominent long-lasting feature, the Great Red Spot, has been downsizing since the 1800s. However, the giant storm is still large enough to swallow Earth. The Red Spot is anchored in a roiling atmosphere that is powered by heat welling up from the monster planet’s deep interior, which drives a turbulent atmosphere. In contrast, sunlight powers Earth's atmosphere. From Jupiter, however, the Sun is much fainter because the planet is much farther away from it. Jupiter's upper atmosphere is a riot of colorful clouds, contained in bands that whisk along at different wind speeds and in alternating directions. Dynamic features such as cyclones and anticyclones (high-pressure storms that rotate counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere) abound. Attempting to understand the forces driving Jupiter's atmosphere is like trying to predict the pattern cream will make when it is poured into a hot cup of coffee. Researchers are hoping that Hubble's yearly monitoring of the planet—as an interplanetary weatherman—will reveal the shifting behavior of Jupiter's clouds. Hubble images should help unravel many of the planet's outstanding puzzles. This new Hubble image is part of that yearly study, called the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL.

The outer space, a mysterious and unique place, continues on for miles and miles. I have always been curious of what is out there. It contains a vast spectrum of planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, moons, and asteroids. Earth, our home planet, is grouped with seven more, our solar system only a single part to the hundred others, and the Milky Way Galaxy only a miniscule piece to the rest of outer space. Jupiter, a planet within our solar system, is a whole mystery by itself. This interesting planet has many astounding qualities and is twice as massive as the rest of the seven planets combined. 

Jupiter is a gas giant. To put in perspective, Jupiter is compared to a basketball as Earth would to a nickel. Jupiter is mostly made up of hydrogen and helium, and deeper into the atmosphere, the hydrogen gas is compressed into a liquid because of the extreme pressure and temperature. Therefore, Jupiter contains the largest ocean in the solar system except of hydrogen, not water. 

Because it is only comprised of swirling gasses and liquids, Jupiter lacks a true surface. However, a spacecraft wouldn’t be able to necessarily go through the planet either. The intense pressures and temperatures within the planet would crush, melt, and vaporize the spacecraft severely. 

Jupiter’s surface displays colorful swirls and stripes, one of its trademark features. Many factors cause this and the first one being the layers in its atmosphere. Ammonia ice makes up the first layer, ammonium hydrosulfide crystals for the second, and water ice and vapor for the innermost layer. Additionally, gases rising from the planet’s warmer interior creates plumes of sulfur and phosphorous, making thick streams of bright colors appear. Because of Jupiter’s fast rotation, these streams are spread even farther and can separate into clouds of dark belts and bright zones. Since Jupiter is without a solid surface, these streams and spots can continue spreading for hundreds of years like The Great Red Spot. 

This humongous red area is located on Jupiter’s lower half of its sphere. The planet’s fast rotation, gases, and layers cause many intense storms to occur on its surface. The Great Red Spot hosts a brutal storm that has been persisting for 300 years with winds up to 335 miles per hour. 

Furthermore, beyond Jupiter’s surface there are 53 confirmed moons and 26 others awaiting discovery. It takes six years to travel to Jupiter from Earth. Because of this and the lack of technology, some of Jupiter’s moons are known to exist but aren’t proven with images of discovery as evidence. Ganymede, Callisto, lo, and Europa are the four largest and most intriguing moons that orbit Jupiter. Ganymede is the biggest moon in the solar system, even larger than the planet Mercury. Callisto contains many small craters of which a few indicate a small degree of current surface activity. The moon lo is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. Europa contains a liquid-water ocean beneath its frozen crust. Because of this, Europa has the ingredients to support life and besides Earth, is the most likely place to sustain life in the solar system. Astronomers and scientists are extremely intrigued and curious by this and are doing everything they can to learn more about this mysterious moon. 

Not only does Jupiter possess many moons but also rings. Unlike Saturn, Jupiter’s rings are made up of dark dust particles instead of ice. This causes its rings to appear very faint and are difficult to see. 

As can be seen, Jupiter has many amazing qualities of which make this gigantic planet very unique. Scientists and astronomers are learning more and more every day about this intriguing planet, and there is so much more to be discovered. Maybe in the future, the human race will travel to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and start a new life. To think Jupiter is only a small seashell within a massive ocean of the unknown outer space is terrifying and amazing. 

Source: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/jupiter/in-depth/

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