Solar System: Jupiter
As the fifth and among the furthest planet from the sun, Jupiter’s temperature is estimated at -140 degrees Celsius. This planet is always frigid irrespective of warm or cold weather. Its temperature varies depending on the height above the surface since the heat is driven from the interior of the planet itself. It is the biggest of the nine planets in the solar system, and estimated to be 318 times bigger than the earth. Its main constuents are largerly light elements, which include helium and hydrogen. It has an average density of 1.3 times that of water and an average radius of about 69.9 million kilometres. Now let analyse jupiter in terms of composition, formation, life support and its visibility (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, 2009).
In the solar system, Jupiter is the hugest planet with four large moons and several smaller ones. With all these features, Jupiter forms a miniature solar system that look like a star in its composition. With the help of a primitive telescope, Galileo Galilei, an astronomer, saw four small star-like features near Jupiter. These were Jupiter’s four largest satellites, which include Europa, Callisto, Io and Ganymede; collectively known as Galilean satellites. Jupiter has a total of 62 satellites and their discoveries are still on-going. Io is known for its volcanically active nature in the solar system. Ganymede, on the other hand, is the largest and the only satellite in the solar system having a magnetic field.
Europa is water covered satellite. Its surface gets cracked during the gravitational interaction between itself and other satellites, making its surface appear relaxed and stretched at a periodic interval. Calisto is characterized by icy oceans lying under its crust. Its thick ice shields the underneath rock from wear and tears. This satellite appears dark because of the impact craters whirling-up dark silt from below the ice buffer (NASA, 2009).
Jupiter’s outlook has colourful clouds and atmospheric features, as a result of intense winds stirring different gases at different temperature across the planet. Most viewable parts are the tops of clouds in its atmosphere. The clouds consist of frozen ammonia as well as water vapour, which can be seen deep below and through clear spots in the clouds. The planets also consist of dark blue and brown stripes known as belts, which are winds blowing in the lower atmosphere. The white and red stripes, blowing in the belts’ opposite direction are called zones. The planet’s most renowned feature includes dynamic storms systems, known as the Great Red Spot. This is a strong whirling storm, which has been in existence for over 300 years. Recently, additional three storms were established and named the Little Red Spot. (NASA, 2009).
Jupiter’s atmospheric composition resembles that of the sun and mainly consists of helium and hydrogen. The temperature and pressure rise as one move deeper into the atmosphere, causing hydrogen gas to turn into liquid. The pressure deep in the atmosphere is so strong; therefore, it would be impossible to land a spacecraft on Jupiter otherwise it would crash. At lower heights, the hydrogen turns into metallic; hence able to conduct electricity. Within the metallic layer, Jupiter possess stronger magnetic field that are produced by the electrical currents coming from Jupiter’s speedy rotation. Astronauts claim that this magnetic field is approximately 20000 times as powerful as the earth’s. In addition, clouds of charged particles are also confined within the magnetosphere of Jupiter (NASA, 2009) .
Jupiter, just like Saturn, contains a system of rings comprising of dusts and snowballs collected from the Solar System. However, the rings are relatively faint and narrow. Its moons and rings are embedded in a powerful radiation belt containing ions and electrons imprisoned by the magnetic field. The Jovian magnetosphere, consisting of these fields and particles, can expand 1-3 million kilometres toward the sum. This forms a windsock-shaped tail that extends for over one billion kilometres behind Jupiter (NASA, 2009).
Its rings comprise of an inner cloud-like ring, known as Halo, and flattened main ring, which are both characterized by tiny, dark particles. The gossamer is the third ring, and it is transparent. It is formed by three rings of tiny debris from three satellites that include Adrastea, Amalthea and Thebe. According to Galileo spacecraft, the ring system of Jupiter is formed by knocked-up dusts as interplanetary meteoroids bombard within small satellite of jupiter. The core ring comprises of materials from the moon metis (NASA, 2009).
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) believe that a human being can survive on Europa for a day. It has even appointed a team of scientists to explore on possible ways of landing a spacecraft on its icy surface. The team seek to establish Europa’s non-icy materials and understand its composition in terms of organic substances, salts among other contaminants. They also want to investigate the geographical mapping of Europa, specifically the icy shells and ocean of the moon by means of magnetometry and seismology. Their last goal, if they successfully launch a spacecraft on Europe, they want to characterize the surface geology at a human scale (Zolfagharifard, 2013).
Jupiter can be seen with a naked eye; i.e. one can see a bright object resembling a star, which changes its celestial position in a sluggish easterly motion; however, most people do not realize this phenomenon. During the conjunction, the crescent satellite appears on top of Jupiter and Venus like a giant smile, where Jupiter is suspended underneath while Venus shines from the lower part. The view can be enhanced by binoculars; although, not all satellites will always be visible since some can pass behind or in front of the jovial disk. Further view enhancement is achieved with the use of a telescope. Telescope provides a well-defined planetary disk view and one is able to see clearly how its equatorial diameter bulges as a result of polar flattening. This planet can been during its rotation: it rotates once nine hours and it remains vivid for about 56 minutes (Zolfagharifard, 2013).
Since Jupiter is one of the solar systems, its formation started with nebula, which consisted of mostly hydrogen gas and some dust materials. Gravity forced nebula to merge and collapse due to its own weight, resulting in a proto-planetary disk. Dust materials and gases collided in a process known as accretion and eventually coalesced. In the process, the gravitational force increased as the materials amount grew more colossal and attracted more materials toward it. Later on the process became self-sustaining and accelerating. The dust materials, with time, became large enough to form planetesimals (University of Oregon, 2010).
Planetesimals, on the other hand, grew-up, giving rise to proto-planets. The eventual stage happened when the Sun burnt and blew off the remaining loose gas and other materials by its solar winds that contained charged particles. The bigger percentages of the left-overs were helium and hydrogen gases. In their process of breaking from the sun, these gases together with heavier materials whirled rapidly like a disk, scattering severing eddies. This eddies later collected themselves into spinning balls of materials that eventually compressed, under gravity, to form planets. Among the planets was Jupiter, whose formation entirely involved helium and hydrogen (University of Oregon, 2010).
Jupiter is known as a gas giant planet with big percentage of helium and hydrogen. In addition, it is the biggest planet in the solar system. Jupiter formed far away from the sun so as to avoid having its lighter materials, i.e. hydrogen and helium, from being blown off. Scientists believe that metals and rocks would survive and condense near the sun and not gas: they can only condense far away from the sun. These are the reasons believed to influence the location of Jupiter; hence its location was never by accident. Its centrality aimed at gathering substantial amount of those light elements. Mercury proves this stament true since it contains no atmosphere (University of Oregon, 2013).
The below image illustrates the movements by jupiter and Jupiter’s atmosphere respectively.(University of Oregon, 2013)
(University of Oregon, 2013)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, (NASA). (2009). Jupiter. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/62211main_Jupiter.Lithograph.pdf.
Zolfagharifard, E. (2013). Could Humans One Day Live on EUROPA? NASA Experts Believe Jupiter’s Moon Could Be Habitable. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2386745/Could-humans-day-live-EUROPA-Nasa-experts-believe-Jupiters-moon-habitable.html.
University of Oregon. (2013). Jupiter: Basic properties. Retrieved from http://zebu.uoregon.edu/disted/ph121/l15.html.
University of Oregon. (2010). Solar System Formation. Retrieved from http://lasp.colorado.edu/~bagenal/1010/SESSIONS/11.Formation.html.