You may remember that Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, and if you’d like to get a feeling for what this means, just imagine Jupiter as the size of a basketball and Earth as the size of a grape. Jupiter contains 2.5 times the mass of all of the sun’s other planets combined!
Even though Jupiter is 500 million miles away, we owe it a debt of gratitude for protecting us. If this is hard for you to believe, you might want to remember that there’s a lot of naturally occurring space debris in and around our solar system. If we orbit close enough to a chunk of debris, our gravity pulls it toward us. If it’s big and it crashes into us, we’re in trouble. Fortunately, we’re spared a lot of this trouble because Jupiter’s gravity is so tremendous that it pulls debris toward it—debris that could otherwise strike us. So, when you’re looking at Jupiter one of these evenings, you might want to thank him for being like the big, strong bouncer at the “Night Club of the Sun’s Planets!”
Our ancient ancestors saw Jupiter as the king of all the gods, and everything about this planet is king-sized. It radiates about twice as much energy as it receives from the sun. Its magnetic field is 14 times stronger than ours. It has more than 60 moons, and 400 mile-per-hour winds blow through its atmosphere.
Even though Jupiter is 500 million miles away, we owe it a debt of gratitude for protecting us.
A storm on Jupiter that has persisted for centuries (the Great Red Spot) is more than twice the size of our entire planet.
While our little grape of a planet spins around its axis every 24 hours, the basketball planet spins in nine hours and 50 minutes!
Sometimes our ancestors called him Jupiter, sometimes they called him Jove, and sometimes they called him Zeus, but they always associated him with thunder and always depicted him with lightning bolts. As it turns out, space probes recently have detected lighting bolts on Jupiter that are a thousand times more powerful than any lightning on Earth!
Is it just an accident that the symbolic Jupiter and the literal Jupiter have so much in common? Or is there something here that we have yet to understand?
Harriet’s class, “Making Friends With the Night Sky,” is scheduled for four Thursday evenings beginning on Oct. 1. To register, call Maui Community College at 984-3231. For more information, visite Harriet’s Website: www.passengerplanet.com.