Written and Illustrated by Catherine Liu

The Giant Planet

Did you know that Jupiter is larger than all the planets put together? It’s the largest planet in the solar system! Even more than 1,300 Earths can fit inside Jupiter! This large planet is 88,793 miles across.Early sky watchers named Jupiter after their gods. Ancient religions thought Jupiter was the king of all gods because of how large it is.The fifth planet away from the sun is Jupiter and it is 483,000,000 miles away from the sun. It is also the closest “outer planet” to Earth. One day in Jupiter is nine hours and fifty four minutes. This explains why it spins the fastest. A year in Jupiter is 11.9 Earth years. Jupiter is made mostly of whirling gases. Like Earth, Jupiter may have actually formed about 4.5 billion years ago!

Jupiter’s Clouds

Some people think that Jupiter is a planet with stripes on it. But, believe it or not, those stripes are actually colorful clouds. No one knows what Jupiter looks like without its clouds. Jupiter is surrounded by colorful zones separated by some dark belts.These zones and belts make Jupiter look striped. All those swirls on Jupiter are actually Jupiter’s storm clouds. These clouds are about -180 degrees Fahrenheit. On Jupiter there is a huge, red storm cloud. That is Jupiter’s “great red spot”. It might be Jupiter’s most striking feature! The “great red spot” is just a red oval shaped storm on Jupiter.

Jupiter’s Moons

So far scientists have found out that Jupiter has sixteen moons, and there may be more. The first four moons that are closest to Jupiter are small, however, the next four moons are very large. One of the large moons is named Lo. Lo is very interesting because it has active volcanoes all over it. Europa, another one of Jupiter’s moons, is a little bit smaller than Earth’s moon. Its surface is made of water and ice 3 miles thick. Europa has some dark lines. Those lines are just cracks where water pushed to the surface. Did you know that beneath Europa’s surface may be oceans that are more than 30 miles deep? Jupiter’s largest moon, also the largest moon in the solar system, is Ganymede. Did you know that Ganymede is even larger than Mercury? Ganymede’s surface is covered mostly with rock and ice. Callisto, the farthest moon from Jupiter, is also surrounded by ice and rock. However, it has way more craters and holes.

Crashing Comet

In 1994, a giant comet started to approach Jupiter. This comet was named Shoemaker Levy 9. As it went closer to Jupiter, it broke into about 20 pieces. After it broke apart, it crashed into Jupiter and sent huge fountains of gases into space. If you look at the bottom of Jupiter, you can see little brown spots. Those spots are the marks of the comets that crashed into Jupiter. When the comets crashed into Jupiter, scientists were able to watch the event because the Hubble Space Telescope photographed it.

Exploring Jupiter

Lots of probes have explored Jupiter since 1970. Spacecrafts that go and explore Jupiter carry cameras and science equipment. They take lots of pictures and send them back to Earth so scientists can learn more about Jupiter. Voyage 1 discovered that Jupiter has rings! However, those rings are very thin and are made out of rock and dust. Galileo spacecraft was sent to Jupiter to study it in 1995. It dropped a smaller probe 126 miles into Jupiter’s clouds to take pictures of what Jupiter really looks like. It gave scientists a picture of how Jupiter really looks and also gave scientists more information about Jupiter’s moons. Scientists hope to find out more information about Jupiter soon.