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Space Station Info :: Nine Planet Solar System :: Overview of Jupiter :: Physical Characteristics Of Jupiter

Physical Characteristics Of Jupiter

Planetary composition

Jupiter is composed of a relatively small rocky core, surrounded by metallic hydrogen, surrounded by liquid hydrogen, which is surrounded by gaseous hydrogen. There is no clear boundary or surface between these different phases of hydrogen, the conditions blend smoothly from gas to liquid as one descends.


Physical Characteristics Of Jupiter

Jupiter's atmosphere is composed of ~81% hydrogen and ~18% helium by number of atoms. The atmosphere is ~75%/24% by mass; with ~1% of the mass accounted for by other substances - the interior contains denser materials such that the distribution is ~71%/24%/5%.The atmosphere contains trace amounts of methane, water vapor, ammonia, and "rock". There are also traces of carbon, ethane, hydrogen sulfide, neon, oxygen, phosphine and sulfur. The outermost layer of the atmosphere contains crystals of frozen ammonia.

This atmospheric composition is very similar to that of the composition of the solar nebula. Saturn has a similar composition, but Uranus and Neptune have much less hydrogen and helium. Jupiter's upper atmosphere undergoes differential rotation, an effect first noticed by Giovanni-Cassini (1690).The rotation of Jupiter's polar atmosphere is ~5 minutes longer than that of the equatorial atmosphere. In addition, bands of clouds of different latitudes flow in opposing directions on the prevailing winds. The interactions of these circulation patterns cause storms and turbulence. Wind speeds of 600 km/h are not uncommon. A specific violent storm, about three times Earth's diameter, is known as the Great Red Spot, and has persisted through more than three centuries of human observation. The only spacecraft to have descended into Jupiter's atmosphere to take scientific measurements is the Galileo probe.

Planetary Rings

Jupiter has a planetary ring system which is made of smoke-like dust particles knocked from its moons by meteor impacts. The main ring is made of dust from the satellites Adrastea and Metis. Two wide gossamer rings encircle the main ring, originating from Thebe and Amalthea. There is also an extremely tenuous and distant outer ring that circles Jupiter backwards. Its origin is uncertain, but this outer ring might be made of captured interplanetary dust.


Jupiter has a very large and efficient magnetosphere. In fact, if you could see Jupiter's magnetic field from Earth, it would appear five times as large as the full moon in the sky despite being so much farther away. This magnetic field collects a large flux of particle radiation in Jupiter's radiation belts, as well as producing a dramatic gas torus and flux tube associated with Io. Jupiter's magnetosphere is the largest planetary structure in the solar system. The Pioneer probes confirmed that Jupiter's enormous magnetic field is 10 times stronger than Earth's and contains 20,000 times as much energy.

The sensitive instruments aboard was discovered that the Jovian magnetic field's "north" magnetic pole is at the planet's geographic south pole, with the axis of the magnetic field tilted 11 degrees from the Jovian rotation axis and offset from the center of Jupiter in a manner similar to the axis of the Earth's field. The Pioneers measured the bow shock of the Jovian magnetosphere to the width of 26 million kms (16 million miles), with the magnetic tail extending beyond Saturn's orbit.

The data showed that the magnetic field varies fatly in size on the sunward side of Jupiter because of pressure variations in the solar wind, an effect studied in further detail by the two Voyager spacecraft. It was also discovered that streams of high-energy atomic particles are ejected from the Jovian magnetosphere and travel as far as the orbit of the Earth. Energetic protons were found and measured in the Jovian radiation belt and electric currents were detected flowing between Jupiter and some of its moons, particularly Io.


Stationary, retrograde Opposition Distance to Earth (AU) Maximum brightness Diameter Stationary, prograde Conjunction to Sun
January 4, 2004 March 4, 2004 4.42570 -2.5 mag 44.50" May 5, 2004 September 21, 2004
February 2, 2005 April 3, 2005 4.45664 -2.5 mag 44.19" June 5, 2005 October 23, 2005
March 5, 2006 May 4, 2006 4.41269 -2.5 mag 44.63" July 6, 2006 November 21, 2006
April 6, 2007 June 5, 2007 4.30436 -2.6 mag 45.75" August 7, 2007 December 23, 2007
May 9, 2008 July 9, 2008 4.16097 -2.7 mag 47.33" September 8, 2008 January 24, 2009
June 15, 2009 August 14, 2009 4.02777 -2.9 mag 48.89" October 13, 2009 February 28, 2010
July 24, 2010 September 21, 2010 3.95392 -2.9 mag 49.81" November 19, 2010 April 6, 2011
August 30, 2011 October 29, 2011 3.96975 -2.9 mag 49.61" December 26, 2011 May 13, 2012
October 4, 2012 December 3, 2012 4.06853 -2.8 mag 48.41" January 30, 2013 June 19, 2013
November 7, 2013 January 5, 2014 4.21044 -2.7 mag 46.77" March 6, 2014 July 24, 2014
December 9, 2014 February 6, 2015 4.34623 -2.6 mag 45.31" April 8, 2015 August 26, 2015
January 8, 2016 March 8, 2016 4.43536 -2.5 mag 44.40" May 9, 2016 September 26, 2016
February 6, 2017 April 7, 2017 4.45491 -2.5 mag 44.21" June 10, 2017 October 26, 2017
March 9, 2018 May 9, 2018 4.39983 -2.5 mag 44.76" July 11, 2018 November 26, 2018
April 10, 2019 June 10, 2019 4.28388 -2.6 mag 45.97" August 11, 2019 December 27, 2019
May 14, 2020 July 14, 2020 4.13931 -2.8 mag 47.58" September 12, 2020 January 29, 2021

Also see about:

Overview Of Jupiter
Physical Characteristics
Exploration Of Jupiter
Jupiter's Moons
Classification Of Jupiter Moon




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