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Detailed snapshot of Jupiter taken by spacecraft Cassini
Known to the ancients
Name origin Roman king of gods[1]
Orbital characteristics
Celestial class Planet
Primary Sun
Order from primary 6
Perihelion 740,520,000 km4.95 AU
460,137,795.276 mi
Aphelion 816,620,000 km5.459 AU
507,424,143.005 mi
Semi-major axis 778,570,000 km5.204 AU
483,780,969.14 mi
Titius-Bode prediction 5.2 AU[3]
Circumference 4,774,000,000 km31.912 AU
2,966,426,071.741 mi
Orbital eccentricity 0.04839[1]
Sidereal year 11.8565 a4,330.587 da[1][2]
Synodic year 398.88 da1.092 a[2]
Avg. orbital speed 13.0697 km/s47,050.92 km/h
8.121 mi/s
29,236.086 mph
Inclination 1.305°0.0228 rad
1.45 grad
to the ecliptic[1]
Rotational characteristics
Sidereal day 9.9250 h0.414 da[1][2]
Solar day 9.9259 h0.414 da[2]
Axial tilt 3.12°0.0545 rad
3.467 grad
Physical characteristics
Mass 1.8987 * 1027 kg317.721 M⊕
1 M♃
Mean density 1,326 kg/m³1.326 g/ml
82.779 lb/ft³
Equatorial radius 71,492 km44,423.069 mi
Surface gravity 20.87 m/s²68.471 ft/s²
2.128 g
Escape speed 59.54 km/s214,344 km/h
36.996 mi/s
133,187.187 mph
Surface area 62,179,600,000 km²24,007,677,777.306 mi²
121.904 A⊕
1 A♃
Mean temperature 125 K-148.15 °C
-234.67 °F
225 °R
Number of moons 63
Composition 90% hydrogen and 10% helium[1]
Color #CC9966
Albedo 0.52[4]
Magnetic flux density 4.28 G4.28e-4 T[2]
Magnetic dipole moment at present 1.55 * 1027 N-m/T[5]
Magnetic dipole moment at creation 1.79 * 1027 N-m/T[5]
Decay time 45,469 a16,607,552.25 da[3]
Half life 31,516 a11,511,219 da[3]

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Its diameter is more than 11 times that of Earth, and about one-tenth that of the sun. It is more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined, and it would take more than 1,000 Earths to fill its volume. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter appears brighter than most stars. Although the fifth planet from the sun], it is usually the second brightest planet -- after Venus.[6]

In composition it closely resembles a star, so much so that some authorities hold that had it been eighty times as massive, it would have become a star, rather than a planet. It has four large moons and many smaller moons, forming a kind of miniature solar system.[1]


Ancient knowledge and naming

Named after the ruler of the Roman gods, Jupiter is large and bright enough to be seen by the naked eye. In fact it is the third-brightest object in the night sky, after the Moon, and the planet Venus.[7]

The Babylonians believed that their god Marduk set Jupiter in the sky to guide the stars.[8] Jupiter might have had an influence in the invention of several ancient calendars, including the Mayan calendar, the Egyptian calendar, the ancient (pre-Hillel II) Hebrew calendar, and possibly the calendar in use (at least by the Sethite Generations of Adam) before the Global Flood).[8]

Orbital characteristics

Jupiter completes one slightly eccentric orbit around the Sun in 11.86 years, and returns to the same position in Earth's night sky in roughly 399 years.[2][8] Its mean distance from the Sun is about 5.2 AU—almost exactly the distance predicted by the Titius-Bode Law of planetary distances. Though Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun, it is actually the sixth object of a size requiring the assumption of a spheroidal shape. Hence n=6 is the proper number to use in the Bode's Law formula.

Rotational characteristics

Jupiter has a very short sidereal day of about 9.92 hours. However, its latitudinal cloud bands rotate at different speeds, and some of these appear to rotate retrograde. Astronomers once calculated the Jovian day from observations of the equatorial cloud band, but today they rely on the periodicity of Jupiter's magnetic field.[6]

Physical characteristics

Jupiter is about 318 times as massive as Earth, and has a radius of 71,492 km (44,423 miles). Its atmosphere is composed primarily of 86% hydrogen, 14% helium, and traces of methane, ammonia, phosphine, water, acetylene, ethane, germanium, and carbon monoxide.[6] It is so thick that no record exists of the surface, if Jupiter has one in the traditional sense--though Jupiter might have a heavy-metal core having a composition similar to that of Earth but 20 to 30 times as massive.[6]

The Great Red Spot and other storms

The planet endures continual storms. The most famous of these is the Great Red Spot, which has raged for at least three hundred years. The most precise estimate of its duration is 342 years,[9] but this might refer merely to the first time that someone observed it with a telescope capable of resolving it. It is large enough to encompass the entirety of the Earth and rotates anticlockwise along Jupiter's equator. Winds at its edge circulate at 360 km/h[6], far faster than those of the most powerful hurricane ever recorded on Earth.

Radiation of heat

Jupiter actually radiates 1.7 times the heat that strikes it from the Sun.[10] This could be due to Kelvin-Helmholtz gravitational compression, a process that also limits the size that Jupiter can have.[7]


Jupiter has a magnetic field about 14 times as strong as that of Earth. Specifically, its magnetic dipole moment amounts to 1.55 * 1027 N-m/T, higher than that of any object except the Sun. It is so high, in fact, that by Russell Humphreys' model for planetary magnetic fields, Jupiter's field must have formed with all of its mass aligned for the maximum cumulative magnetic dipole moment, instead of the usual 25%. By this assumption, the magnetic dipole moment of Jupiter at creation must have been 1.79 * 1027 N-m/T. The half-life of this field is longer than 31,500 Julian years.

This field tends to shield Jupiter from the solar wind. However, the field has also trapped large numbers of radioactive particles in a Van-Allen-like radiation belt[6] that actually encompasses the orbits of the seven innermost moons. The magnetic field extends beyond the far side of Jupiter for at least 700 million kilometers.[6]

The very strong magnetic field of Jupiter is extraordinary by any standard. The Humphreys model has passed two key tests of its predictive value, one at Uranus and the other at Neptune.[11] That model normally assumes that God formed any given celestial body initially out of water, with its molecules partially aligned for maximum cumulative effect, and then transmuted the molecules after the magnetic field was established. For most celestial bodies thus far observed, an alignment fraction of 25% suffices to establish a magnetic dipole moment at creation. But Jupiter's magnetic dipole moment is far too high to have resulted from an initial alignment of 25%. An alignment of 100% seems to be required, the highest fraction allowable and the highest fraction of all celestial bodies observed to date. This implies that God made Jupiter to be a beacon in the night sky, in more ways than merely by making it large.

Jupiter's orbit is inclined 1.305 degrees to the ecliptic, so Jupiter appears, in turn, in each constellation of the Zodiac. In fact, its 399-day synodic year places it in a different constellation of the Zodiac at the same point in each succeeding year. Pratt[12] shows that the members of the Zodiac, and a number of closely associated constellations, presage the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. If Jupiter is indeed a beacon, then it could not have been better placed.

Indeed, Jupiter might be more than a beacon. Rick Larson discovered that Jupiter entered into a triple conjunction with Regulus, the chief star of the constellation Leo, on or about September of 3 BC, after first entering into conjuction with Venus a month earlier. He proposes that Jupiter was in fact the Star of Bethlehem.

Ring system

Jupiter does have a ring, consisting of three components, called the halo, the main ring, and the gossamer ring. This ring lies entirely within the region occupied by the four innermost moons, and probably derives its substance from escaping dust from the two innermost moons, Metis and Adrastea. The average size of the ring particles is 10 microns, comparable in size to the particles in tobacco smoke.[13]

Problems for uniformitarian theories

Jupiter, as mentioned above, is radiating heat at 1.7 times the rate that it receives it from the Sun. That this heat flux could be solely due to Jupiter losing the heat of its formation as a planet 4.6 billion years ago begs explanation.

Jupiter's sidereal day is less than ten Earth hours long. If Jupiter formed simply as an accretion aggregate of the solar nebula, then it should not have acquired such tremendous angular momentum. The problem involves not merely the short sidereal day but also Jupiter's tremendous mass.

The alternative theory is that Jupiter formed as a "failed protostar" at the center of its own nebula. This theory has several problems:

  1. Jupiter never ignited, though its magnetic field is four times as strong as its mass would normally predict.
  2. None of Jupiter's 63 moons is gaseous. Therefore a key event in the nebular sequence did not take place.
  3. The four dwarf-planet-sized Galilean moons have vastly differing apparent geological "ages" coming from times estimated to be as disparate as ten million years to as recent as thirteen hundred (although the times cannot be fixed with any reliability).[14]
  4. Many of Jupiter's outer moons move retrograde to Jupiter's own day.


Galileo Galilei studied Jupiter extensively and in the process discovered its four largest moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, also known as the Galilean moons. Many other astronomers studied Jupiter from Earth-bound telescopes for hundreds of years. In the process they discovered twelve of Jupiter's moons and the Great Red Spot, but did not discover Jupiter's ring system.

Seven spacecraft, all from the United States, have visited Jupiter thus far. First to do so was Pioneer 10 (December 3, 1973), which suffered tremendously from the radiation belt but still provided the evidence for Jupiter's magnetosphere. Pioneer 11 was next (December, 1974) and took far better images of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot.

Voyager 1 (March, 1979) and Voyager 2 (July, 1979) gave the first comprehensive views of Jupiter and the Jovian system, including the discovery of its rings, the discovery of four moons inside Io, and the first extensive studies of the Galilean moons.

Ulysses (February 1992) made a brief flyby of Jupiter in order to place itself in polar orbit around the Sun. Nevertheless European Space Agency scientists used this opportunity to make further measurements of Jupiter's magnetosphere and the effect upon it by the solar wind.

Galileo reached Jupiter in 1995. It released a probe to dive into Jupiter's atmosphere; that probe transmitted for nearly an hour before the tremendous pressures crushed it. Galileo's orbiter remained in the system for nearly eight years, through two extensions of its mission, and conducted the most extensive surveys of the Galilean moons to date. Eventually, with the craft low on fuel, mission planners dived it into Jupiter to prevent its possibly crashing into Europa, rupturing Europa's ice sheet, and contaminating the liquid ocean that astronomers now suspect lies a mere 10 km deep to the ice and could yet harbor extraterrestrial life.[6]

Cassini flew by Jupiter briefly in 2000 on its way to Saturn. While in the Jovian system, it took the image shown at the top of this article.

The New Horizons mission will include a Jupiter flyby in its journey to the Pluto system.


Table of satellites, in order from the innermost to the outermost:
Name Perizene Apozene Eccentricity Sidereal month Inclination Mass Sidereal day
Io 420071000420,071 km0.00281 AU
261,020.018 mi
423529000423,529 km0.00283 AU
263,168.72 mi
0.00410.0041 1.7691.769 da0.00484 a 0.0006981317007980.04 °6.981317e-4 rad
0.0444 grad
8.93194E+221.216 M☾8.93194e+22 kg
0.0149 M⊕
152841.642.456 h1.769 da
Europa 664792000664,792 km0.00444 AU
413,082.598 mi
677408000677,408 km0.00453 AU
420,921.817 mi
0.00940.0094 3.5511813.551 da0.00972 a 0.008203047484370.47 °0.0082 rad
0.522 grad
4.8E+220.653 M☾4.8e+22 kg
0.00803 M⊕
306822.038485.228 h3.551 da
Ganymede 10690080001,069,008 km0.00715 AU
664,250.775 mi
10717920001,071,792 km0.00716 AU
665,980.673 mi
0.0130.013 7.1557.155 da0.0196 a 0.003403392041390.195 °0.0034 rad
0.217 grad
1.48186E+232.017 M☾1.48186e+23 kg
0.0248 M⊕
618192171.72 h7.155 da
Callisto 18687680001,868,768 km0.0125 AU
1,161,198.6 mi
18966320001,896,632 km0.0127 AU
1,178,512.487 mi
0.00740.0074 16.6890216.689 da0.0457 a 0.00490437519810.281 °0.0049 rad
0.312 grad
1.076E+231.464 M☾1.076e+23 kg
0.018 M⊕
1441931.328400.536 h16.689 da
Use a JavaScript-enabled browser to view this element. Browse the result list directly.DECADECENTURYCallisto1610-01-07T00:00:000Date of discovery 7 January 16107 January 1610
12 Teveth 5370 He
12 Shevat 5613 AM

Discoverer Simon Marius, Galileo Galilei
Name origin Nymph or daughter of Lycaeon, servant of Artemis, mistress of Zeus
Celestial class Galilean moon, Solar system, Moon
Io1610-01-07T00:00:000Date of discovery 7 January 16107 January 1610
12 Teveth 5370 He
12 Shevat 5613 AM

Discoverer Simon Marius, Galileo Galilei
Name origin Argive princess and mistress of Zeus
Celestial class Galilean moon, Solar system, Moon
Ganymede1610-01-07T00:00:000Date of discovery 7 January 16107 January 1610
12 Teveth 5370 He
12 Shevat 5613 AM

Discoverer Simon Marius, Galileo Galilei
Name origin son of Tros and cupbearer to Zeus
Celestial class Galilean moon, Solar system, Moon
Europa1610-01-07T00:00:000Date of discovery 7 January 16107 January 1610
12 Teveth 5370 He
12 Shevat 5613 AM

Discoverer Simon Marius, Galileo Galilei
Name origin Phoenician princess from whom Europe gets its name; mistress of Zeus, mother of Rhadamanthus and Minos.
Celestial class Galilean moon, Solar system, Moon
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  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 "Jupiter." Solar System Exploration: Planets, NASA. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Williams, David R. "Jupiter Fact Sheet." National Space Science Data Center, NASA, November 2, 2007. Accessed March 2, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Calculated
  4. "Planet Physical Characteristics." Solar System Dynamics, JPL, NASA. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Humphreys, D. R. "The Creation of Planetary Magnetic Fields." Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3), December 1984. Accessed April 29, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Gierasch, Peter J., and Philip D. Nicholson. "Jupiter." World Book Online Reference Center. 2004. World Book, Inc. <> Hosted as "Entry for Jupiter," World Book at NASA. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Arnett, Bill. "Entry for Jupiter." The Nine 8 Planets, April 10, 2005. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Nelson, Clark. "399-day Mean Synodic Period of Jupiter." <>, 2006. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  9. Than, Ker. "Differences Spotted in Jupiter's Big Red Storms." <>, July 31, 2006. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  10. Weisstein, Eric W. "Jupiter." Eric Weisstein's World of Astronomy, accessed March 3, 2008.
  11. Humphreys, D. R. "Beyond Neptune: Voyager II Supports Creation." Institute for Creation Research. Accessed April 30, 2008
  12. Pratt, John C. "The Constellations Tell of Christ." Meridian, June 15, 2005. Accessed May 12, 2008.
  13. Harvey, Samantha. "Jupiter:Rings." Solar System Exploration, NASA, February 7, 2008. Accessed March 3, 2008.
  14. Fulbright, Jeannie. Exploring Creation with Astronomy. Apologia Educational Ministries, 2004.

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