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Astronomical symbol of Jupiter

Voyager 1 Image of Jupiter's Great Red Spot in False Color.jpg
Voyager 1 Jupiter Io Europa.jpg

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet within the Solar System. It is a gas giant with a mass slightly less than one-thousandth of the Sun but is two and a half times the mass of all 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 or outer planets. 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 −2.94, making it on average the third-brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus. (Mars can briefly match Jupiter's brightness at certain points in its orbit.)

Jupiter voy1.jpg

Jupiter is primarily composed of hydrogen with a quarter of its mass being helium; it may also have a rocky core of heavier elements. 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 when it was first seen by telescope. 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 most recent 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. Future targets for exploration in the Jovian system include the possible ice-covered liquid ocean on the moon Europa.

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Highest resolution color photo of Io
Io (/ˈ./; Greek: Ἰώ) is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter and, with a diameter of 3,642 kilometres (2,263 mi), the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System. It was named after Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of the lovers of Zeus.

With over 400 active volcanoes, Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System. This extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating from friction generated within Io's interior as it is pulled between Jupiter and the other Galilean satellites—Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Several volcanoes produce plumes of sulfur and sulfur dioxide that climb as high as 500 km (300 mi) above the surface. Io's surface is also dotted with more than 100 mountains that have been uplifted by extensive compression at the base of the moon's silicate crust. Some of these peaks are taller than Earth's Mount Everest. Unlike most satellites in the outer Solar System, which are mostly composed of water ice, Io is primarily composed of silicate rock surrounding a molten iron or iron sulfide core. Most of Io's surface is characterized by extensive plains coated with sulfur and sulfur dioxide frost.

Selected biography

Gan De (Chinese: 甘德; Wade–Giles: Kan Te, fl. 4th century BC) was a Chinese astronomer/astrologer born in the State of Qi also known as the Lord Gan (Gan Gong). Along with Shi Shen, he is believed to be the first in history known by name to compile a star catalogue, preceded by the anonymous authors of the early Babylonian star catalogues and followed by the Greek Hipparchus who is the first known in the Western tradition to have compiled a star catalogue. Gan De made some of the first detailed observations of Jupiter in recorded history. He described the planet as "very large and bright". In one of his observations on Jupiter, he reported a "small reddish star" next to Jupiter. The historian Xi Zezong has claimed that this was a naked-eye observation of Ganymede in the summer of 365 BC, long before Galileo Galilei's celebrated discovery of the same in 1610 (all four of the brightest moons are technically visible to the unaided eye, but in practice are normally hidden by the glare of Jupiter). By occluding Jupiter itself behind a high tree limb perpendicular to the satellites' orbital plane to prevent the planet's glare from obscuring them, one or more of the Galilean moons might be spotted in favorable conditions. However, Gan De reported the color of the companion as reddish, which is puzzling since the moons are too faint for their color to be perceived with the naked eye. Shi and Gan together made fairly accurate observations of the five major planets.


Jupiter Atmosphere ˑ Exploration (Voyager 2) ˑ Rings

Major Moons ˑ Io ˑ Europa ˑ Ganymede ˑ Callisto

Astronomers: Galileo Galilei ˑ Gan De ˑ Gerard Kuiper ˑ Giovanni Domenico Cassini

See Also: Formation and evolution of the Solar System ˑ Gas Giant ˑ Nebular hypothesis

Bold articles are featured.
Italicized articles are on dwarf planets or minor moons.

Selected picture

New Horizons infrared photo of Jupiter and Io
Credit: NASA

New Horizons infrared photo of Jupiter and Io

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