This is a page about the planet. For the Roman God, see Jupiter (Mythology).

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Basic Information

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun in our Solar System. It's the largest planet in our system, with a mass 2.5 times greater than all the other planets combined. It's diameter is 11 times that of the Earth, and you could fit more than 1,000 Earths inside it's clouds.

Being so large, Jupiter is hit by 8,000 times more comets, asteroids, meteorites, etc, than the Earth is. It's great gravity also deflects numerous such objects from getting closer to the inner planets - the process by which these objects are deflected and flung outward is sometimes called the Frisbee Effect. It's possible the frisbee effect is what has allowed for stable enough conditions on earth long enough for multicellular life (and humanity) to survive and evolve.

Jupiter is mostly Hydrogen, and maybe 1/4 Helium. It's possible it might have a rocky core. Other elements in the clouds include ammonia, sulfur, and water. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all gas giants. Non-frozen gas giants are sometimes known as the Jovian Planets.

Jupiter is typically the third-brightest object in the sky at night (after the Moon and Venus), and has been known since ancient times.

It has at least 63 moons, including the four big Galilean moons that were discovered in 1610. It's largest moon, Ganymede has a diameter greater than Mercury. It has a faint Planetary Ring, and a potent magnetosphere. The Great Red Spot is an anticyclonic storm on Jupiter that has been ongoing since at least 1831 (and may have first been detected by telescope in 1665). The Oval BA is a smaller storm that formed in 2000. The storms on Jupiter are amazing. Thunder there travels 4x the speed it does on Earth, and rain falls twice as fast. The wind patterns on Jupiter are 3 times the speed of our jet stream and trade winds.

Jupiter's magnetic field is huge - a windsock-shaped field 450 million miles long, extending out away from the sun. 10 million amps of electric current course through it. It makes crazy "sounds" every hour or two - radio bursts that come through on our radio technology like roaring lions, whistles and hisses.

Mythological and Astrological Associations

The most commonly known (to the Western World, at least) mythological connection to the planet Jupiter comes from the Romans, who named it after their chief god, Jupiter (Mythology).
To the Babylonians, the planet represented Marduk.
To the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese, it's known as the Wood Star, corresponding to the Five Elements (Chinese Philosophy).
In Vedic Astrology, it is Brihaspati, the Guru to the gods.
In Germanic and Norse Mythology, the planet is said to be Thor.

The word Jovial comes from Jovian, which means "of Jupiter". Jovial means happy or merry, which are personality traits that have been associated with the planet Jupiter in Astrology since the Middle Ages.

It's also worth noting that in August of 3 B.C., there was an alignment / conjunction of Jupiter and Venus that would likely have appeared as a bright star in the Eastern sky over Israel. Infer from that whatever you like. Just sayin'.

See Also


2. NonFiction TV: The Universe on The History Channel

Game and Story Use

  • Much of Jupiter's atmosphere is believed to be similar to the primordial soup that gave birth to amino acids and thus life here on earth millions of years ago. So it's possible that some sort of alien life could be on Jupiter. Having such a huge atmosphere to fly around in, and few solid resources, it's possible such life is unaware that anything exists outside of Jupiter. The atmosphere may be too opaque for them to even see the stars.
  • Spacecraft may use Jupiter's gravity to slingshot out from the sun, and save themselves years of acceleration.
  • Jupiter's storms - or their equivalent on a planet in another solar system - are one heck of a disaster or terrain element, spinning at hundreds of miles an hour.
    • The big red spot is very much like a hurricane that just won't go away. Hurricanes and anticyclones on Earth only form over water. Perhaps that particular storm is actually a vortex of hot air rising up from a boiling sea far below. If so, the consensus model of what Jupiter is made of would be wrong - but the rule of cool might take care of that little problem.
  • What if it turned out the random "noises" produced by Jupiter's potent magnetic field were really noises or transmissions from some form of life - either intelligent life, or some animal with natural radar? Is another form of advanced life sitting just a few planets away?
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