The Jovian Planets

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 166
  • Published : October 8, 1999
Open Document
Text Preview
The Jovian Planets

Far beyond Earth in the solar nebula lies an ice belt and beyond that lay the four Jovian planets. They are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Jovian means "Jupiter- like" in which the rest of the jovian planets do coincide with the name. Uranus Neptune and Saturn, all carry the same traits as Jupiter. The jovian planets are large gas giants that contain mainly a thick atmosphere of Hydrogen and helium. These planets do not have solid surfaces, rather they just get denser with depth. They contain high mass and are usually anywhere from 15 to 318 times the mass of earth. They also contain many satellites and the gravity is much stronger than that of earth. The jovian planets inner structure probably consists of a rocky core of metals, water, ammonia and methane. Usually these cores are about the same size as earth possibly a little larger. It is also possible that Uranus and Neptune's core is a liquid instead of a solid. The Jovian planets also have about the same rotational characteristics and all have rings around them. Jupiter, the first of the jovian planets, reigns supreme throughout the solar system. Named after the Roman god Jove, the ruler of Olympus; Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and is also the largest planet in the Earth's solar system. It is 318 times more massive than Earth and is two thirds of the planetary mass in the solar system. Jupiter's surface, unlike earth, is gaseous and not a solid. It is about 90% hydrogen and 10% helium with traces of methane, ammonia, water and rock. Jupiter's interior is very similar to the Sun's interior but with a far lower temperature. However, it is still unknown but Jupiter is believed to have a core of liquid metallic hydrogen. This exotic element can only be achieved at pressure greater than 4 million bars. Jupiter radiates more energy in space than it receives from the sun. The interior of Jupiter is hot and has been estimated to be 20000 degrees Kelvin. The heat is generated by the Kelvin- Hemholtz mechanism, or the gravitational compression of a planet. It gives off about 1.5 to 2 times more energy than the sun. It is speculated that the source of this heat is due to the rapid rotation of the planet and it's liquid metallic hydrogen core. Liquid Metallic hydrogen consists mainly of ionized protons and electrons and is the electrical conductor and the source of Jupiter's magnetic field. This magnetic field "spins in less than 10 hours and is stirred by convection currents. The results are the strongest magnetic field in the solar system…." ( Seeds, 516). This magnetic field is so large that it extends beyond Saturn and is electrified enough to send charges into the earth's magnetic field. In the 1970's, Pioneer and Voyager flew past Jupiter and discovered the large magnetic field or magnetosphere. The magnetosphere is not a true sense a perfect sphere. It is highly flattened due to the rapid rotation of Jupiter. This magnetic field causes phenomenon such as strong lightening and even an aurora similar to earth's aurora borealis . Jupiter, unlike earth, has three distinct weather producing zones or a troposphere. They are believed to contain Ammonia ice, ammonium hydrosulfide, and water and ice. In the apparent or uppermost atmosphere, ammonia ice crystals thrive in a temperature of about 150 degrees Kelvin. Most astronomers theorize that the next level of the atmosphere is primarily made up of Ammonium hydrosulfide crystals in a temperature of 200 degrees Kelvin. It is also theorized that the third and final level before the liquid metallic hydrogen is a layer of liquid ammonia and water droplets. Jupiter's atmosphere is also plagued by high velocity winds that move in wide bands. These winds blow in opposite directions along the latitude of the planet. Because of chemical reactions and differences, they can be seen wrapping around Jupiter in colorful bands. The light colored bands are called zones and the...
tracking img