Now is the perfect time to gaze upon Jupiter as it’s currently glittering brightly in our night skies. And with NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter celebrating its 10th year since it launched in August 2011, a few amazing new secrets are being revealed about the King of the Planets.
1. The Great Red Spot
This well-known feature on Jupiter is a massive storm system that has been raging for centuries.
Juno has discovered the storm is shrinking and is now only 1.3 times the size of Earth and that it is actually 50 to 100 times as deep as Earth’s oceans.
2. Intense Magnetic Field
Jupiter has been known to have an intense magnetic field; however, Juno has revealed it is far stronger than expected. The field has been measured to be at least 10 times stronger than the strongest regions here on Earth.
3. Jupiter's Super-Charged Auroras
Auroras are produced when energetic charged particles from the Sun slam into a planet’s atmosphere, funnelled there by the magnetosphere. Because of Jupiter’s much stronger magnetic field, more particles are directed to Jupiter’s poles, causing extremely bright aurorae. They release hundreds of gigawatts, enough to briefly power all of human civilization!
4. Shortest Day of all the Planets
Even though Jupiter is the most massive planet in the solar system, it actually spins the quickest. One day on Jupiter only lasts 9 hours and 55 minutes. A year, however, is much longer — Jupiter orbits the sun every 11.8 Earth years.
5. Jupiter Protects Earth, Mostly
Because Jupiter is so massive, its gravitational pull is the most intense in the Solar System. Therefore, Jupiter can act as a ‘cosmic vacuum cleaner’, capturing straying asteroids or comets, before they potentially hit Earth. However, Jupiter can also alter these orbits and send objects hurling in towards us, luckily, Jupiter has been more protector than antagonist.
6. Super Storm Clusters on Jupiter
The Juno spacecraft has discovered more storm systems on the planet. Clusters of swirling cyclones are raging at both the poles with each storm about the size of Australia. The North Pole has nine raging storms and in the south, five have been revealed.
7. Deepest Atmosphere in the Solar System
Jupiter’s atmosphere is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and is a chaotic mix of swirling cloud bands, currents and eddies that extends down to 3,000km deep. The deepest of any planet in the Solar System.
8. Biggest Planet in the Solar System
We all know Jupiter is big, but did you realise it is 2.5 times more massive than all the other planets combined? It is almost 318 times larger than Earth and 11 Earths wide!
To learn even more about the Juno Mission, you can hitch a ride on Juno to find out exactly where the spacecraft is right now and more info on its mission goals. Juno is a solar-powered spacecraft and now the most distant ever. Visit NASA’s Juno Mission page. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/where
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