By Jove, Jupiter is a stunner! Even from some 615 million kilometers as captured by the astonishing James Webb Space Telescope.
Up close, it is the monster of our solar system which is so big that the rest of the planets could fit into it.
Jupiter is a wannabe star. Had it grown bigger it may have ignited enough and then who knows? It is said that if there were 1000 Jupiters fused together there could have been a rival star to the sun in our solar system. For now though, we have to be content with one monstrous gas giant among us.
Purely as a comparison Jupiter is massive enough to envelop 1000 Earths or eleven Earths could fit across Jupiter’s equator. Its core, if it has any, would be the size of Earth. It is more massive than the rest of the planets in our solar system combined and then some more.
The scientific community is convinced that had it not been for Jupiter, there would not have been us with all our ridiculous certitudes and stupid little squabbles. Jupiter has been described as a preserver and nurturer because of where it is in our solar system and the way it so magnificently acts as Earth’s protector.
Its average distance from Earth is 715 million km / 444 million miles. When we are at our closest we are 588 million km / 365 million miles apart. When we are our farthest apart, Jupiter and Earth are 968 million km / 601 million miles from each other. Currently, Jupiter is about 617 million kilometers from us.
With its 67 moons Jupiter takes 12 earth years to complete one orbit around the sun. It takes about ten hours to rotate around its axis making the Jovian day that long. So, if you are that pretentious type who complain that you wish there were more than 24 hours in a day to accomplish some fantastic things in your life, try moving to Jupiter.
With no known surface, the gas giant’s clouds are an eternally swirling toxic mix of ammonia and other unknown chemicals. Storms just rage on with no landfall to make. Despite its monstrous size it rotates very fast— spinning once every ten hours. That fast spin churns up the toxic brew in its atmosphere to create what is easily the most strikingly beautiful mélange of shapes and colors in our solar system. It is paradoxical that the more toxic something is, the more bewitchingly beautiful it is.
It is said that once our sun has become a white dwarf some five billion years from now, Jupiter will still go on because of its internal furnace. It is just as well because Jupiter grabbed most of the material left over by the sun after its formation.
So please pay respect, people, and say By Jove. If you must thank something today, start with Jupiter.
Speaking of Jupiter’s bewitching beauty, the images produced by Webb are so spectacular you might think it was showing off just for the camera. Incidentally, Webb does not photograph the way we understand it here on Earth.
Here is what NASA says about the breathtaking images shown here.
“Data from telescopes like Webb doesn’t arrive on Earth neatly packaged. Instead, it contains information about the brightness of the light on Webb’s detectors. This information arrives at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Webb’s mission and science operations center, as raw data. STScI processes the data into calibrated files for scientific analysis and delivers it to the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes for dissemination. Scientists then translate that information into images like these during the course of their research (here’s a podcast about that). While a team at STScI formally processes Webb images for official release, non-professional astronomers known as citizen scientists often dive into the public data archive to retrieve and process images, too.
Judy Schmidt of Modesto California, a longtime image processor in the citizen science community, processed these new views of Jupiter. For the image that includes the tiny satellites, she collaborated with Ricardo Hueso, a co-investigator on these observations, who studies planetary atmospheres at the University of the Basque Country in Spain.”
[Above photo courtesy: https://blogs.nasa.gov/webb/2022/08/22/webbs-jupiter-images-showcase-auroras-hazes/; image processing by Judy Schmidt.]