Biggest Planet in the Solar System
Out of the nine planets in our solar system, Jupiter is the biggest of them all. In Roman mythology, the planet was said to be named after the Roman god and the ancient Greeks named it after their Zeus, the King of the gods. Now isn’t that just a fitting legend for the largest planet? Aside from ancient myths, let us learn more why Jupiter is hailed as the largest planet in our solar system.
In prehistoric years, before the invention of telescope, people thought that planets were just merely stars. Jupiter was then called the “bright wandering star” and it was one of the top four brightest sky objects. The Sun, Moon and Venus were the first three. However, in the year 1610, Galileo, one of the few early scientists and historians, had a telescope which led him to discover the four big moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These four moons are also called Galilean Moons. He took note of the moons’ encircling movements on Jupiter and concluded that planet Earth is not the center of the universe. But it was only in 1973 that the Jupiter’s composition and characteristics was first uncovered by sending the spacecraft Pioneer 10 from the earth.
When it comes to mass, volume and surface area, Jupiter outshines the rest of the planets. It has a mass of 1.8981 x 1027 kg and its volume measures 1.43128 x 1015 km3, while its surface area is a mean circumference of 4.39264 x 105 km. Just imagine combining all the other planets and doubling its size, that’s how massive Jupiter is. Its volume is so enormous that it could possibly hold over 1,300 Earths. Jupiter is also known as the Gas Giant planet as its atmosphere is mainly composed of helium and hydrogen, quite similar to the sun and stars’ atmosphere. The dark and light bands you see on Jupiter are a result of the planet’s violent atmospheric east-west winds which can travel 620 kilometers per hour. The light zones are mainly white clouds composed of frozen ammonia crystals while the belts are made up of chemically dark clouds. Blue clouds can also be seen at the inmost parts.
Jupiter’s most remarkable detail is the Great Red Spot, which is a huge reddish-brown storm consisting of sulfur and phosphorus. Its size is triple the Earth’s diameter and this storm can spin for 360 kilometers per hour. The Great Red Spot has been raging for already more than 300 years. However, the storm subsides from time to time.
Orbital Speed: Comparing to planet Earth, it only takes almost 10 hours for Jupiter to complete spinning on its axis. Its orbital speed is so rapid unlike the other planets.
It was soon discovered that apart from the four large moons, Jupiter has other smaller moons orbiting around. Some even describe that Jupiter and its moons outline a mini solar system. And up until today, a big part of Jupiter remains a mystery despite the many numerous discovery about the planet.