Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun in our solar system. Also known as the King of Planets, Jupiter ranks as the largest planet in the solar system. This gas giant features powerful storms and swirling, colorful clouds of gas. The planet helped to change our conception of the universe after Galileo Galilei observed the planet with a telescope. His observations of the moons of Jupiter circling the planet confirmed Copernicus’s theory that the Earth is not the center of the universe.
Jupiter is a giant gas planet, but just how large is the planet? Moreover, how does it compare in size to the largest body in our solar system, the Sun? Let’s take a look at the size of Jupiter and see how many Jupiters can fit inside the Sun. We’ll also examine how Jupiter formed and what the planet is made of. Keep reading to learn how many Jupiters can fit in the Sun!
5 Amazing Facts About Jupiter
- Jupiter has a faint ring like Saturn, but its ring is made of dust, while Saturn’s rings are made of ice.
- You can see Jupiter with the naked eye, and it ranks as the third brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.
- Jupiter ranks not only as the largest planet in the solar system, but it also measures twice as large as all the other planets combined.
- A day on Jupiter takes just 10 Earth hours.
- It takes Jupiter around 11.8 Earth years to orbit the Sun due to the size of its orbit and distance from the Sun.
The Size of Jupiter
As previously mentioned, Jupiter ranks as the largest planet in the solar system. Not only does it measure larger than any other planet, but it also positively dwarfs all of the competition. Jupiter’s mean radius equals around 43,441 miles, roughly 11 times the size of Earth’s radius. However, Jupiter is not a perfect sphere, which means its equatorial and polar radii differ in size. The equatorial radius measures 44,423 miles, while the polar radius measures just 41,541 miles. This gives the planet a total surface area of 2.3 x 10^10 square miles or 23 billion square miles.
Meanwhile, Jupiter’s mass equals around 1.89 x 10^27 kilograms, roughly 317 times the mass of the Earth. In terms of volume, it encompasses approximately 1.43 x 10^15 cubic kilometers. That means that you could fit around 1,321 Earths inside Jupiter.
How Many Jupiters Can Fit Inside the Sun?
No other object in our solar system can hold a candle to the Sun in terms of size. In fact, the Sun’s mass makes up over 99% of all the mass in the entire solar system. Unlike Jupiter and the other planets, the Sun appears as an almost perfect sphere. This means its polar and equatorial radii measure almost exactly the same size. Its mean radius equals 435,000 miles, giving it a diameter of 864,000 miles and a circumference of about 2,715,000 miles. At that size, the Sun’s diameter measures nearly 10 times Jupiter’s. Additionally, the Sun’s mass is about 1.9 x 10^30 kilograms, while its total volume is 1.4 x 10^27 cubic meters. This means that you can fit around 984 Jupiters inside of the Sun!
Although the sun slowly loses mass and size over time due to the effect of solar winds, these solar activities have only managed to shave off a fraction of its size over the last 4.6 billion years. During that time, the Sun has lost around 0.05 percent of its mass.
Formation and Structure of Jupiter
Astronomers believe Jupiter to be the oldest planet in our solar system. Jupiter likely began as a solid core and then developed its gaseous atmosphere. According to one hypothesis, Jupiter likely resided closer to the Sun at around 3.5 AU. As it grew in mass, the planet slowly moved closer to the Sun, which caused several large “super Earths” in the interior solar system to collide and destroy one another. This collision changed Jupiter’s trajectory and caused it to move into the outer solar system. Jupiter’s exit from the solar system enabled the development of Earth and the other interior planets. This theory is known as the “grand track hypothesis” and remains controversial in astronomy. Another theory suggests that the planet started out much further from the Sun at around 20-30 AU and then slowly migrated inward.
In terms of its structure, Jupiter somewhat resembles the Sun. In fact, astronomers sometimes call gas giants like Jupiter “failed stars” because they contain much of the same raw material as stars. The main difference between gas giants and stars is their size, which prevents gas giants from developing nuclear fusion in their core. Jupiter’s atmosphere consists mostly of hydrogen and helium. Meanwhile, a core of metallic fluid hydrogen and other compounds rests at the interior of the planet. Colorful clouds surround the planet in its atmosphere. These clouds get carried along by ultra-strong winds that blow at around 335 miles per hour. The clouds vary in composition and color and include trace amounts of other chemicals such as ammonia, carbon, oxygen, neon, and sulfur.
What Is the Great Red Spot of Jupiter?
Most people know Jupiter for its Great Red Spot. This giant storm is over 300 years old and appears as a giant red eye on the surface of the planet. The Great Red Spot measures nearly twice the size of Earth and its widest point, and features winds between 270 and 425 miles per hour. These hurricane-like winds spin counterclockwise, classifying the storm as an anticyclone. The storm appears mostly red to the observer due to the chemicals in the center of the storm that absorb other waves of ultraviolet light. Although models suggest that the storm is permanent, the storm has shrunk over the past few hundred years.
How Far Away Is Jupiter from the Sun?
To measure the vast distances that exist in space, astronomers used a scale called astronomical units (AU). One AU equals the average distance between the Earth and the Sun or around 93 million miles. This simplification makes it much easier to compare relative distances and create working models of the solar system and other parts of the known universe.
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun after Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, respectively. Like all other objects in space, Jupiter is constantly in motion, meaning that its space in relation to other objects in the solar system changes all the time. On average, Jupiter measures around 4.2 AU from Earth, or 391 million miles. Meanwhile, it resides at 5.2 AU from the Sun or roughly 484 million miles. This means that it completes one orbit around the Sun about once every 11.8 Earth years.
Jupiter FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Where does Jupiter’s name come from?
Jupiter gets its name from the Roman god Jupiter, a sky god who oversaw all aspects of life. The mythology of Jupiter likely comes from Greek mythology, specifically from the origins of Zeus.
What spacecraft studies Jupiter?
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been studying Jupiter up close since July 4, 2016. Juno represents only the second spacecraft to study Jupiter after the Galileo spacecraft visited between 1995 and 2003. Juno collects data about Jupiter’s weather, formation, and magnetic environment.
Can you fly through Jupiter?
Although Jupiter is a gas planet, the fluids of the planet get denser and hotter toward the center. At a certain depth, the gas giant’s structure changes from gas to a metallic form of hydrogen. This metallic fluid would be impassable to any currently conceivable ship due to its incredible pressure and temperature.
How many moons does Jupiter have?
Jupiter has 92 known moons, most of which get their names from figures associated with the god Jupiter from Roman mythology. The four largest moons – Calista, Europa, Ganymede, and Io – also go by the name the Galilean Moons, due to their discovery by Galileo Galilei in 1610.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © joshimerbin/Shutterstock.com
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