Year of 2018

From Sputnik to extraterrestrial storms

NASA’s solar-powered Juno probe took this photo of a massive storm near Jupiter’s north pole. Juno’s been collecting data and taking incredible photos of Jupiter since 2016, showing us detailed evidence of the turbulent atmosphere surrounding the largest planet in our solar system.

We share this photo to celebrate the start of World Space Week today. You may ask yourself, why does World Space Week begin on a Thursday? That’s because October 4 is the day in 1957 that the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 1 into a low orbit around the Earth, kicking off the Space Race. But the contest for dominance in space exploration has since given way to united, global efforts to explore our universe, a sentiment summed up nicely by this year’s Space Week theme: ‘Space unites us all.’

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two-and-a-half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter and Saturn are gas giants; the other two giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, are ice giants. Jupiter has been known to astronomers since antiquity. The Romans named it after their god Jupiter. When viewed from Earth, Jupiter can reach an apparent magnitude of −2.94, bright enough for its reflected light to cast shadows, and making it on average the third-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus.
Radius: 43,441 miles
Surface area: 23.71 billion sq miles
Orbital distance: 483.77 million miles
Orbital order: 5
Orbital period: 11.86 years
Gravity: 24.79 m/s²
Diagram of Jupiter, its interior, surface features, rings, and inner moons
This cut-away illustrates a model of the interior of Jupiter, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep layer of liquid metallic hydrogen.