Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest. Jupiter is more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined (the mass of Jupiter is 318 times that of Earth).

orbit: 778,330,000 km (5.20 AU) from Sundiameter: 142,984 km (equatorial)mass: 1.900e27 kg

Jupiter (a.k.a. Jove; Greek Zeus) was the King of the Gods, the ruler of Olympus and the patron of the Roman state. Zeus was the son of Cronus (Saturn).

Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in the sky (after the Sun, the Moon and Venus). It has been known since prehistoric times as a bright wandering star. But in 1610 when Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sky he discovered Jupiters four large moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (now known as the Galilean moons) and recorded their motions back and forth around Jupiter. This was the first discovery of a center of motion not apparently centered on the Earth. It was a major point in favor of Copernicuss heliocentric theory of the motions of the planets (along with other new evidence from his telescope: the phases of Venus and the mountains on the Moon). Galileos outspoken support of the Copernican theory got him in trouble with the Inquisition. Today anyone can repeat Galileos observations (without fear of retribution :-) using binoculars or an inexpensive telescope.

Jupiter was first visited by Pioneer 10 in 1973 and later by Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 and Ulysses. The spacecraft Galileo orbited Jupiter for eight years. It is still regularly observed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The gas planets do not have solid surfaces, their gaseous material simply gets denser with depth (the radii and diameters quoted for the planets are for levels corresponding to a pressure of 1 atmosphere). What we see when looking at these planets is the tops of clouds high in their atmospheres (slightly above the 1 atmosphere level).

Jupiter is about 90% hydrogen and 10% helium (by numbers of atoms, 75/25% by mass) with traces of methane, water, ammonia and rock. This is very close to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the entire solar system was formed. Saturn has a similar composition, but Uranus and Neptune have much less hydrogen and helium.

Our knowledge of the interior of Jupiter (and the other gas planets) is highly indirect and likely to remain so for some time. (The data from Galileos atmospheric probe goes down only about 150 km below the cloud tops.)

Jupiter probably has a core of rocky material amounting to something like 10 to 15 Earth-masses.

Above the core lies the main bulk of the planet in the form of liquid metallic hydrogen. This exotic form of the most common of elements is possible only at pressures exceeding 4 million bars, as is the case in the interior of Jupiter (and Saturn). Liquid metallic hydrogen consists of ionized protons and electrons (like the interior of the Sun but at a far lower temperature). At the temperature and pressure of Jupiters interior hydrogen is a liquid, not a gas. It is an electrical conductor and the source of Jupiters magnetic field. This layer probably also contains some helium and traces of various ices.

The outermost layer is composed primarily of ordinary molecular hydrogen and helium which is liquid in the interior and gaseous further out. The atmosphere we see is just the very top of this deep layer. Water, carbon dioxide, methane and other simple molecules are also present in tiny amounts.

Recent experiments have shown that hydrogen does not change phase suddenly. Therefore the interiors of the jovian planets probably have indistinct boundaries between their various interior layers.

Three distinct layers of clouds are believed to exist consisting of ammonia ice, ammonium hydrosulfide and a mixture of ice and water. However, the preliminary results from the Galileo probe show only faint indications of clouds (one instrument seems to have detected the topmost layer while another may have seen the second). But the probes entry point (left) was unusual Earth-based telescopic observations and more recent observations by the Galileo orbiter suggest that the probe entry site may well have been one of the warmest and least cloudy areas on Jupiter at that time.

Data from the Galileo atmospheric probe also indicate that there is much less water than expected. The expectation was that Jupiters atmosphere would contain about twice the amount of oxygen (combined with the abundant hydrogen to make water) as the Sun. But it now appears that the actual concentration much less than the Suns. Also surprising was the high temperature and density of the uppermost parts of the atmosphere.

Jupiter and the other gas planets have high velocity winds which are confined in wide bands of latitude. The winds blow in opposite directions in adjacent bands. Slight chemical and temperature differences between these bands are responsible for the colored bands that dominate the planets appearance. The light colored bands are called zones; the dark ones belts. The bands have been known for some time on Jupiter, but the complex vortices in the boundary regions between the bands were first seen by Voyager. The data from the Galileo probe indicate that the winds are even faster than expected (more than 400 mph) and extend down into as far as the probe was able to observe; they may extend down thousands of kilometers into the interior. Jupiters atmosphere was also found to be quite turbulent. This indicates that Jupiters winds are driven in large part by its internal heat rather than from solar input as on Earth.

The vivid colors seen in Jupiters clouds are probably the result of subtle chemical reactions of the trace elements in Jupiters atmosphere, perhaps involving sulfur whose compounds take on a wide variety of colors, but the details are unknown.

The colors correlate with the clouds altitude: blue lowest, followed by browns and whites, with reds highest. Sometimes we see the lower layers through holes in the upper ones.

The Great Red Spot (GRS) has been seen by Earthly observers for more than 300 years (its discovery is usually attributed to Cassini, or Robert Hooke in the 17th century). The GRS is an oval about 12,000 by 25,000 km, big enough to hold two Earths. Other smaller but similar spots have been known for decades. Infrared observations and the direction of its rotation indicate that the GRS is a high-pressure region whose cloud tops are significantly higher and colder than the surrounding regions. Similar structures have been seen on Saturn and Neptune. It is not known how such structures can persist for so long.

Jupiter radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. The interior of Jupiter is hot: the core is probably about 20,000 K. The heat is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism, the slow gravitational compression of the planet. (Jupiter does NOT produce energy by nuclear fusion as in the Sun; it is much too small and hence its interior is too cool to ignite nuclear reactions.) This interior heat probably causes convection deep within Jupiters liquid layers and is probably responsible for the complex motions we see in the cloud tops. Saturn and Neptune are similar to Jupiter in this respect, but oddly, Uranus is not.

Jupiter is just about as large in diameter as a gas planet can be. If more material were to be added, it would be compressed by gravity such that the overall radius would increase only slightly. A star can be larger only because of its internal (nuclear) heat source. (But Jupiter would have to be at least 80 times more massive to become a star.)

Jupiter has a huge magnetic field, much stronger than Earths. Its magnetosphere extends more than 650 million km (past the orbit of Saturn). (Note that Jupiters magnetosphere is far from spherical it extends only a few million kilometers in the direction toward the Sun.) Jupiters moons therefore lie within its magnetosphere, a fact which may partially explain some of the activity on Io. Unfortunately for future space travelers and of real concern to the designers of the Voyager and Galileo spacecraft, the environment near Jupiter contains high levels of energetic particles trapped by Jupiters magnetic field. This radiation is similar to, but much more intense than, that found within Earths Van Allen belts. It would be immediately fatal to an unprotected human being. The Galileo atmospheric probe discovered a new intense radiation belt between Jupiters ring and the uppermost atmospheric layers. This new belt is approximately 10 times as strong as Earths Van Allen radiation belts. Surprisingly, this new belt was also found to contain high energy helium ions of unknown origin.

Jupiter has rings like Saturns, but much fainter and smaller (right). They were totally unexpected and were only discovered when two of the Voyager 1 scientists insisted that after traveling 1 billion km it was at least worth a quick look to see if any rings might be present. Everyone else thought that the chance of finding anything was nil, but there they were. It was a major coup. They have since been imaged in the infra-red from ground-based observatories and by Galileo.

Unlike Saturns, Jupiters rings are dark (albedo about .05). Theyre probably composed of very small grains of rocky material. Unlike Saturns rings, they seem to contain no ice.

Particles in Jupiters rings probably dont stay there for long (due to atmospheric and magnetic drag). The Galileo spacecraft found clear evidence that the rings are continuously resupplied by dust formed by micrometeor impacts on the four inner moons, which are very energetic because of Jupiters large gravitational field. The inner halo ring is broadened by interactions with Jupiters magnetic field.

In July 1994, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter with spectacular results. The effects were clearly visible even with amateur telescopes. The debris from the collision was visible for nearly a year afterward with HST.

When it is in the nighttime sky, Jupiter is often the brightest star in the sky (it is second only to Venus, which is seldom visible in a dark sky). The four Galilean moons are easily visible with binoculars; a few bands and the Great Red Spot can be seen with a small astronomical telescope.

Task 6. Read and translate the text about Saturn:



Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest:

orbit: 1,429,400,000 km (9.54 AU) from Sundiameter: 120,536 km (equatorial)mass: 5.68e26 kg

In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture. The associated Greek god, Cronus, was the son of Uranus and Gaia and the father of Zeus (Jupiter). Saturn is the root of the English word Saturday

Saturn has been known since prehistoric times. Galileo was the first to observe it with a telescope in 1610; he noted its odd appearance but was confused by it. Early observations of Saturn were complicated by the fact that the Earth passes through the plane of Saturns rings every few years as Saturn moves in its orbit. A low resolution image of Saturn therefore changes drastically. It was not until 1659 that Christiaan Huygens correctly inferred the geometry of the rings. Saturns rings remained unique in the known solar system until 1977 when very faint rings were discovered around Uranus (and shortly thereafter around Jupiter and Neptune).

Saturn was first visited by NASAs Pioneer 11 in 1979 and later by Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Cassini (a joint NASA / ESA project) arrived on July 1, 2004 and will orbit Saturn for at least four years.

Saturn is visibly flattened (oblate) when viewed through a small telescope; its equatorial and polar diameters vary by almost 10% (120,536 km vs. 108,728 km). This is the result of its rapid rotation and fluid state. The other gas planets are also oblate, but not so much so.

Saturn is the least dense of the planets; its specific gravity (0.7) is less than that of water.

Like Jupiter, Saturn is about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium with traces of water, methane, ammonia and rock, similar to the composition of the primordial Solar Nebula from which the solar system was formed.

Saturns interior is similar to Jupiters consisting of a rocky core, a liquid metallic hydrogen layer and a molecular hydrogen layer. Traces of various ices are also present.

Saturns interior is hot (12000 K at the core) and Saturn radiates more energy into space than it receives from the Sun. Most of the extra energy is generated by the Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism as in Jupiter. But this may not be sufficient to explain Saturns luminosity; some additional mechanism may be at work, perhaps the raining out of helium deep in Saturns interior.

The bands so prominent on Jupiter are much fainter on Saturn. They are also much wider near the equator. Details in the cloud tops are invisible from Earth so it was not until the Voyager encounters that any detail of Saturns atmospheric circulation could be studied. Saturn also exhibits long-lived ovals (red spot at center of image at right) and other features common on Jupiter. In 1990, HST observed an enormous white cloud near Saturns equator which was not present during the Voyager encounters; in 1994 another, smaller storm was observed.

Two prominent rings (A and B) and one faint ring (C) can be seen from the Earth. The gap between the A and B rings is known as the Cassini Division. The much fainter gap in the outer part of the A ring is known as the Encke Division (but this is somewhat of a misnomer since it was very likely never seen by Encke). The Voyager pictures show four additional faint rings. Saturns rings, unlike the rings of the other planets, are very bright (albedo 0.2 - 0.6).

Though they look continuous from the Earth, the rings are actually composed of innumerable small particles each in an independent orbit. They range in size from a centimeter or so to several meters. A few kilometer-sized objects are also likely.

Saturns rings are extraordinarily thin: though theyre 250,000 km or more in diameter theyre less than one kilometer thick. Despite their impressive appearance, theres really very little material in the rings if the rings were compressed into a single body it would be no more than 100 km across.

The ring particles seem to be composed primarily of water ice, but they may also include rocky particles with icy coatings.

Voyager confirmed the existence of puzzling radial inhomogeneities in the rings called spokes which were first reported by amateur astronomers (left). Their nature remains a mystery, but may have something to do with Saturns magnetic field.

Saturns outermost ring, the F-ring, is a complex structure made up of several smaller rings along which knots are visible. Scientists speculate that the knots may be clumps of ring material, or mini moons. The strange braided appearance visible in the Voyager 1 images (right) is not seen in the Voyager 2 images perhaps because Voyager 2 imaged regions where the component rings are roughly parallel. They are prominent in the Cassini images which also show some as yet unexplained wispy spiral structures.

There are complex tidal resonances between some of Saturns moons and the ring system: some of the moons, the so-called shepherding satellites (i.e. Atlas, Prometheus and Pandora) are clearly important in keeping the rings in place; Mimas seems to be responsible for the paucity of material in the Cassini Division, which seems to be similar to the Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid belt; Pan is located inside the Encke Division and S/2005 S1 is in the center of the Keeler Gap. The whole system is very complex and as yet poorly understood.

The origin of the rings of Saturn (and the other jovian planets) is unknown. Though they may have had rings since their formation, the ring systems are not stable and must be regenerated by ongoing processes, perhaps the breakup of larger satellites. The current set of rings may be only a few hundred million years old.

Like the other jovian planets, Saturn has a significant magnetic field.

When it is in the nighttime sky, Saturn is easily visible to the unaided eye. Though it is not nearly as bright as Jupiter, it is easy to identify as a planet because it doesnt twinkle like the stars do. The rings and the larger satellites are visible with a small astronomical telescope.


Task 7. Read and translate the text about Uranus:



Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and the third largest (by diameter). Uranus is larger in diameter but smaller in mass than Neptune.

orbit: 2,870,990,000 km (19.218 AU) from Sundiameter: 51,118 km (equatorial)mass: 8.683e25 kg

Uranus is the ancient Greek deity of the Heavens, the earliest supreme god. Uranus was the son and mate of Gaia the father of Cronus (Saturn) and of the Cyclopes and Titans (predecessors of the Olympian gods).

Uranus, the first planet discovered in modern times, was discovered by William Herschel while systematically searching the sky with his telescope on March 13, 1781. It had actually been seen many times before but ignored as simply another star (the earliest recorded sighting was in 1690 when John Flamsteed cataloged it as 34 Tauri). Herschel named it the Georgium Sidus (the Georgian Planet) in honor of his patron, the infamous (to Americans) King George III of England; others called it Herschel. The name Uranus was first proposed by Bode in conformity with the other planetary names from classical mythology but didnt come into common use until 1850.

Uranus has been visited by only one spacecraft, Voyager 2 on Jan 24 1986.

Most of the planets spin on an axis nearly perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic but Uranus axis is almost parallel to the ecliptic. At the time of Voyager 2s passage, Uranus south pole was pointed almost directly at the Sun. This results in the odd fact that Uranus polar regions receive more energy input from the Sun than do its equatorial regions. Uranus is nevertheless hotter at its equator than at its poles. The mechanism underlying this is unknown.

Actually, theres an ongoing battle over which of Uranus poles is its north pole! Either its axial inclination is a bit over 90 degrees and its rotation is direct, or its a bit less than 90 degrees and the rotation is retrograde. The problem is that you need to draw a dividing line somewhere, because in a case like Venus there is little dispute that the rotation is indeed retrograde (not a direct rotation with an inclination of nearly 180).

Uranus is composed primarily of rock and various ices, with only about 15% hydrogen and a little helium (in contrast to Jupiter and Saturn which are mostly hydrogen). Uranus (and Neptune) are in many ways similar to the cores of Jupiter and Saturn minus the massive liquid metallic hydrogen envelope. It appears that Uranus does not have a rocky core like Jupiter and Saturn but rather that its material is more or less uniformly distributed.

Uranus atmosphere is about 83% hydrogen, 15% helium and 2% methane.

Like the other gas planets, Uranus has bands of clouds that blow around rapidly. But they are extremely faint, visible only with radical image enhancement of the Voyager 2 pictures (right). Recent observations with HST (left) show larger and more pronounced streaks. Further HST observations show even more activity. Uranus is no longer the bland boring planet that Voyager saw! It now seems clear that the differences are due to seasonal effects since the Sun is now at a lower Uranian latitude which may cause more pronounced day/night weather effects. By 2007 the Sun will be directly over Uranuss equator.

Uranus blue color is the result of absorption of red light by methane in the upper atmosphere. There may be colored bands like Jupiters but they are hidden from view by the overlaying methane layer.

Like the other gas planets, Uranus has rings. Like Jupiters, they are very dark but like Saturns they are composed of fairly large particles ranging up to 10 meters in diameter in addition to fine dust. There are 11 known rings, all very faint; the brightest is known as the Epsilon ring. The Uranian rings were the first after Saturns to be discovered. This was of considerable importance since we now know that rings are a common feature of planets, not a peculiarity of Saturn alone.

Voyager 2 discovered 10 small moons in addition to the 5 large ones already known. It is likely that there are several more tiny satellites within the rings.

Uranus magnetic field is odd in that it is not centered on the center of the planet and is tilted almost 60 degrees with respect to the axis of rotation. It is probably generated by motion at relatively shallow depths within Uranus.

Uranus is sometimes just barely visible with the unaided eye on a very clear night; it is fairly easy to spot with binoculars (if you know exactly where to look). A small astronomical telescope will show a small disk.


Task 8. Read and translate the text about Neptune:


: 2015-09-06; : 171.

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