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Jupiter

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052

Jupiter

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It's fitting that the largest planet in our solar system is named after Jupiter, the supreme king of all Roman gods. Jupiter is so big that 1,300 Earths could fit inside this planetary monster. Jupiter and its kingdom of 17 moons are often pounded by meteorites.

It was Smashing
In July 1994, astronomers witnessed the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crash into Jupiter. The comet was discovered a year earlier by astronomers Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy. Scientists using hundreds of observatories around the world and in space had the unique opportunity to observe the spectacular collision, which had been predicted based on the comet's path. When the comet was pulled into Jupiter's strong gravitational field, it ripped apart into fragments, which then fell through Jupiter's atmosphere at speeds of over 130,000 miles per hour! Then a fireball rose almost 2,000 miles above Jupiter's cloud tops, before falling back to leave dust clouds larger than the Earth that could be seen even with a small telescope.

What is Jupiter's Great Red Spot?

a hurricane

a cloud of shooting flames

a big pimple

Are you right?

Correct!

Jupiter's big spot is really a hurricane as big as the whole surface of the Earth. The storm has raged on Jupiter for over 300 years with winds that measure over 300 mph.

Jupiter isn't round, it's slightly flattened.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Jupiter spins faster than any other planet. It spins fastest around its middle. This causes it to bulge at its equator where the rotation is fastest, giving it a slightly oval profile.

Jupiter is very difficult to find with a telescope.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Actually, Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the sky -- you can see it without a telescope.
With a telescope, you can even see its four largest moons and the Great Red Spot!

Diameter: 89,000 miles
Location: 5th planet from Sun Number of Moons: 17
Average Distance from Sun: 480 million miles
Cloud Top Temperature: -170 degrees F
Orbital Period: 12 years
Characteristics: one of four gaseous planets in solar system; atmosphere made of hydrogen and helium
Significance: largest planet in solar system

Image credits: courtesy of NASA.