Jupiter is a gas giant and the largest planet in our Solar System. The planet is best known (among scientists) for having the largest mass among all planets – about two and a half times larger than that of all the other planets combined. Jupiter is part of the so-called bright trifecta. It is one of the brightest natural entities in the night sky. The other two are Venus and the Moon.
As a gas giant, the planet primarily consists of hydrogen and helium. Because of this, it doesn’t have a proper solid surface. A notable characteristic of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot. This is a giant continuous storm.
The planet is constantly covered by clouds made of ammonia crystals. These clouds influence Jupiter’s temperatures to a significant degree, making the planet’s surface extremely cold. However, as you’ll soon see, while the planet’s upper atmosphere is extremely cold, its core is scorching hot!
Let’s see how cold the surface of this planet really is and what could survive here!
How cold is the surface of Jupiter really?
The average temperature of Jupiter’s surface is about -238 °F. Since the planet is a gas giant, temperatures vary throughout the layers of clouds that give the planet the appearance known to people. As such, the upper layer of clouds features temperatures of approximately -280 °F. The low temperatures result from the clouds’ composition – mainly ammonia ice crystals, which transform into droplets the closer they get to the planet’s core.
While the planet’s surface is extremely cold, its core is the opposite. Jupiter features a rocky core that is believed to get as hot as 36,000 °F. The core reaches such high temperatures because of a phenomenon called gravitational compression, during which gravity compresses an object, increases its density, and reduces its size. Jupiter’s gravity is so strong that it even pulls the planet’s atmosphere toward its undefined surface.
According to NASA, the mean temperature of Jupiter is -166 °F (for this planet, the mean temperature was recorded at an atmospheric pressure level equal to Earth’s sea pressure level – which is why it is different from the average temperature mentioned above).
What could survive on Jupiter?
No known organisms could survive and grow on the surface of Jupiter. The planet is almost twice as cold as the lowest recorded temperature on Earth (-128.6 °F). Only frozen organisms could survive Jupiter – that is if they don’t fall towards the 36,000 °F hot core of the planet.
Certain organisms, known as psychrophiles, can survive at extremely low temperatures. According to studies, they could endure temperatures as low as -4 °F. This is clearly not enough to withstand the sheer cold on Jupiter’s surface.
Free-living cells turn into a glass-like state at -14.8 °F, while the cells of multicellular organisms do so at -58 °F. This state retains metabolic activity and preserves the viability of the cells until they are brought back to normal temperatures. Jupiter, however, doesn’t have normal temperatures. As such, no organism found on Earth could ever live, grow, and develop there.
Last but not least, the fact that the planet is a gas giant and lacks an actual surface doesn’t help. This means that organisms (alien or not) could survive only within the planet’s gas clouds.
Could tomato plants or other vegetables/fruits survive on the surface of Jupiter?
Tomato plants, vegetables, and fruits couldn’t survive the freezing cold surface of Jupiter. It is known that most plants can survive at close to freezing temperatures, but not for a long time. On the other hand, anything above 90 °F leads to wilting leaves – ultimately to a dead plant.
Given that Jupiter’s average surface temperature is -238 °F, no plants could survive there. Of course, the fact that the planet is a gas giant without an actual solid surface isn’t good news for plants, either.
Could tardigrades survive on the surface of Jupiter?
Tardigrades are living microorganisms that are believed to be able to survive the apocalypse. They have survived being exposed to outer space as well. These micro-animals are the most resilient organisms on Earth, surviving more than just extreme temperatures. But could they survive the surface of Jupiter?
Tardigrades have two states – an active state and a tun state. The latter is characterized by a dried and lifeless appearance. In the active state, these animals can survive temperatures as high as 98 °F. On the other hand, in the tun state, they are more resilient, being able to survive temperatures as low as -328 °F and as high as 300 °F.
Given the temperatures on the surface of Jupiter, tardigrades could survive on it only in a permanent tun state – which can’t really be considered survival.
Would water be frozen or liquid on the surface of Jupiter?
Water would be rock-solid frozen on the surface of Jupiter. It freezes at 32 °F. After the freezing temperature is reached and it drops further, the freshly made ice becomes a rock-solid material.
It is also essential to note that scientists are constantly trying to keep water in a liquid state at temperatures below freezing. For example, they’ve been able to maintain it in a liquid state at -49 °F, which is quite impressive. Maybe, in the future, through various technological developments, water would stay liquid even at -238 °F.
Are there any signs of life on Jupiter?
Jupiter shows no signs of life and no conditions compatible with life as we know it. In theory, water cannot possibly exist here, while the planet’s surface consists mainly of helium and hydrogen.
On top of that, the surface of Jupiter is not solid. This makes it difficult even for alien life to develop there, as it would have to be in a constant floating state.
The main characteristics of Jupiter
|Volume||Mass||Surface gravity||Average surface temperature||Predominant composition element|
|Jupiter||1,321 of Earth’s||317.8 of Earth’s||2.528 g||-238 °F||Hydrogen (89%)|
|Earth||2.59876×1011 cu mi||1.31668×1025 lb||1g / 32.1740 ft/s2||57 °F||Nitrogen (78.08%)|
How long is a one-way trip to Jupiter?
A one-way trip to Jupiter is about five years long. The most recent spacecraft to have visited the planet is Juno. It was sent by NASA. The spacecraft departed Earth in 2011 and reached Jupiter almost five years later, in 2016.
Juno is currently orbiting Jupiter and is constantly collecting data that humankind can use to learn more about this gas giant.
7 interesting facts about Jupiter
If you’re passionate about astronomy, these seven facts about Jupiter will certainly make your day better:
- Jupiter is one of the brightest celestial bodies in the sky. It can be seen with the naked eye alongside several other planets. Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter are the brightest bodies in the sky.
- Jupiter has been visited nine times by spacecraft sent from Earth – Pioneer 10 in 1973, Pioneer 11 in 1974, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in 1979, Ulysses in 1992 and 2000, Galileo in 1995, Cassini in 2000, and New Horizons in 2007.
- Scientists believe Jupiter has 79 moons; the four largest are Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto. However, research suggests there are many more unconfirmed bodies orbiting the planet.
- Four of the largest moons in our Solar System belong to Jupiter. They are called Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa. Ganymede is the largest, with a diameter of 3,269 miles.
- Jupiter has the strongest magnetic field in our Solar System. It is approximately 15-20 times stronger than the one on our planet.
- Jupiter features an anticyclonic storm known as The Great Red Spot. It is referred to as persistent and has been tormenting the planet for at least 350 years.
- A cloud on Jupiter can be up to 31 miles thick.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © joshimerbin/Shutterstock.com
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