Jupiter. The mysterious gas giant
Jupiter is the most interesting object of the Solar system. This giant ball of gas thousands of times bigger than Earth by volume, and about three hundred times the mass. He probably has no solid surface. Being the most massive body in our system after the Sun, Jupiter exerts on the other planets and asteroids the greatest impact.
Being the brightest object in the night sky after the moon and Venus, Jupiter since ancient times attracted people’s attention. In many cultures, Jupiter was the object of religious worship. The ancient Arabs and Jews before the advent of the monotheistic worldview Jupiter was associated with the deity of good luck Gedi. Chinese and Hindu pantheons also have deities associated with Jupiter. In fact, the name «Jupiter» means the Supreme deity of Roman mythology. According to the views of astrologers, Jupiter is the «king of planets» and symbolizes power and good fortune.
But, let’s leave the mystique and look at Jupiter from the perspective of science. It is necessary to say that hardly any celestial body caused so much enthusiasm among researchers and opened such a large number of previously unknown and important phenomena like Jupiter.
Actually, Jupiter was the first planet which was discovered satellites. The first satellites of the planets (except the moon, of course) was discovered by Galileo in the early seventeenth century; they are called the «Galilean satellites of Jupiter». Further, these satellites have baffled researchers, no less than Jupiter himself. All in all, Jupiter is nearly 70 satellites – an absolute record in the Solar system; 14 of them were discovered through observations from Earth and the rest through the use of spacecraft.
Despite its huge size, Jupiter rotates very quickly. In less than 10 hours it makes a complete revolution around its axis. Such high-speed rotation creates the atmosphere of Jupiter is enormous winds and storms. In her raging hurricanes, lightning, and possibly rain of concentrated gas, which make up the atmosphere. The scale of the storms of Jupiter is such that the size of the vortices and cyclones exceed in diameter the size of Earth, and their lifetime is not measured in weeks, as we do, and years and decades.
Weather phenomena in the atmosphere of Jupiter so magnificent that have names of their own. More than three hundred years in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter observed giant hurricane – the so-called Great red spot. Its size is several times the size of Earth. In addition to this hurricane, there are several other, smaller. One of them is called the Little red spot, the other White oval. In all of these storms occur in lightning, power tens of thousands of times greater than earth’s.
Jupiter is the only planet in the Solar system, which itself radiates more energy than it receives from the Sun. Monstrous gravitational compression allocates a huge amount of heat, and high speed rotation, leading to the electrification of the atmosphere, creates around Jupiter’s powerful magnetosphere and radiation belts. Absolutely all spacecraft sent to Jupiter, received a huge dose of radiation is ten times higher than the lethal dose for humans.
Among the scholars are of the opinion that if Jupiter is several dozen times more massive, he’d become a star. In the Universe there are many brown dwarfs, which repeats the composition of Jupiter. It is possible that the distributed concentration of the dust cloud from which our Solar system was formed, a little differently, we would have not one, but two Suns in our sky. Of course, in this case, the evolution of the Earth and life on it could go in a completely different way.
Huge mass of Jupiter makes it the main cause of the appearance of comets in the sky. The gravitational influence of Jupiter «pulls» the comet of the region their permanent habitat, the so – called «Oort Cloud» comets head to the Sun, and not all are returned back to the Cloud. Some comets attracted by the Sun and fall on him, however, the majority of them finishes its journey in the atmosphere of Jupiter.
A similar scenario 30 years ago it seemed incredible, however, the observation in 1994 of the death of comet shoemaker-levy into Jupiter’s atmosphere was the first proof of this theory. In the future, for about 20 years was recorded about five deaths of planets in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Thus, the number destroyed by Jupiter of comets for all time of its existence more than a few million! And who knows, maybe the appearance on Earth of water, and consequently of life, was caused by a fall on her giant comets, Jupiter torn from its sleep in the Oort Cloud. How can we not wonder at the sagacity of the ancients, which gave the name Jupiter, the Supreme deity…
Each of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter represent a unique phenomenon more than anywhere else in our system not repeated. On the surface of the moon IO has many active volcanoes, the eruptions of which were observed with spacecraft exploring the neighborhood of Jupiter. Europe is completely covered with a thin layer of ice, under which is a giant ocean, with a depth of about hundreds of kilometers. Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar system. And Callisto has a strong magnetic field is so strong that it distorts Jupiter’s magnetic field in its vicinity. Scientists are seriously considering the possibility of primitive life in the oceans, located on Europa and Callisto. All Galilean satellites always facing Jupiter, the same side as the Moon facing the Earth.
Jupiter has always attracted the attention of the inhabitants of the Earth. Almost all studies of the Solar system beyond Mars necessarily included the passage of the spacecraft close to Jupiter: from the units of series «pioneer» and ending with the latest stations program «New frontiers.» Each series of research opens new frontiers of knowledge, and who knows what will be open in the near future…