Jupiter has the distinction of being the largest planet within our solar system; it is so large that its size is two and a half times larger than every other planet in the solar system combined. A disproportional overall mass leads scientists to believe that Jupiter could not contain any additional volume without actually shrinking in overall size, translating into theories that the massive planet has reached the absolute maximum diameter for its age and category. Close inspection with even an amateur’s telescope shows that the planet actually bulges around the equator due to its mass and extreme magnetic properties. Some astronomers further contemplate that Jupiter may have actually been a failed star, but since the formation patterns of multiple star systems is largely unknown it is considered speculation at best. This theory is further supported by the fact that Jupiter radiates more heat than what is absorbed by the sun, and scientific data shows that the planet was almost twice as large and much hotter in its early stages of formation.
Much about Jupiter is still a mystery though, due to the heavy ammonium cloud cover that surrounds the planet. The cloud bands that encompass the planet rotate is alternating patterns parallel to different latitudes across the planet, and these formations vary both in size and in color from year to year. The overall density of these cloud bands is believed to stretch over thirty-one miles towards the planet’s surface and is made up of two individual layers. The inner clouds have been captured discharging lightning up to a thousand times ore powerful than what we experience on Earth; this is significant because the presence of water vapor in clouds is necessary for lighting to occur.
Other types of massive storm systems have also been viewed within these bands, the most popular of them being the Giant Red Spot. First discovered in 1831, this massive tornado like storm spins counter-clockwise twenty-two degrees south of Jupiter’s equator and has been in perpetual motion ever since (a separate claim suggests that the Giant Red Spot may have been around in 1665 but there is not enough data available to support or refute the statement). The storm’s total mass is larger than Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars combined and it extends seven miles beyond the highest cloud barrier. It has encircled the entire planet several times at varying speeds, and very little is known what causes the storm to speed up or slow down. Consequently, in 2000 three smaller storms that were encircling the planet merged into one and are now considered Red Spot Junior, although their overall mass is still much smaller than the original.
Another interesting and unique feature of Jupiter is its moons, all sixty-three of them. While the vast majority are only a few miles in diameter they still bear the classification for lack of an updated term There are also several within the larger moons that are both active and interesting areas of study. Europa, for example, is believed to have liquid water beneath its surface that remains in constant motion as solid ice above it is drawn by Saturn’s magnetic pull. Some scientists even believe that Europa could support life since several key elements are present, but research techniques are still too primitive in order to tell for certain. Because of the strong magnetosphere, which is estimated fourteen times stronger than Earth’s, these objects are believed to have been influenced and shaped by Jupiter’s presence, much like the formation of the solar system and many asteroid belts within it.