1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jupiter (planet)

JUPITER, in astronomy, the largest planet of the solar system; his size is so great that it exceeds the collective mass of all the others in the proportion of 5 to 2. He travels in his orbit at a mean distance from the sun exceeding that of the earth 5.2 times, or 483,000,000 miles. The eccentricity of this orbit is considerable, amounting to 0.048, so that his maximum and minimum distances are 504,000,000 and 462,000,000 miles respectively. When in opposition and at his mean distance, he is situated 390,000,000 miles from the earth. His orbit is inclined about 1° 18′ 40″ to the ecliptic. His sidereal revolution is completed in 4332.585 days or 11 years 314.9 days, and his synodical period, or the mean interval separating his returns to opposition, amounts to 398.87 days. His real polar and equatorial diameters measure 84,570 and 90,190 miles respectively, so that the mean is 87,380 miles. His apparent diameter (equatorial) as seen from the earth varies from about 32″, when in conjunction with the sun, to 50″ in opposition to that luminary. The oblateness, or compression, of his globe amounts to about 1/16; his volume exceeds that of the earth 1390 times, while his mass is about 300 times greater. These values are believed to be as accurate as the best modern determinations allow, but there are some differences amongst various observers and absolute exactness cannot be obtained.

The discovery of telescopic construction early in the 17th century and the practical use of the telescope by Galileo and others greatly enriched our knowledge of Jupiter and his system. Four of the satellites were detected in 1610, but the dark bands or belts on the globe of the planet do not appear to have been noticed until twenty years later. Though Galileo first sighted the satellites and perseveringly studied the Jovian orb, he failed to distinguish the belts, and we have to conclude either that these features were unusually faint at the period of his observations, or that his telescopes were insufficiently powerful to render them visible. The belts were first recognized by Nicolas Zucchi and Daniel Bartoli on the 17th of May 1630. They were seen also by Francesco Fontana in the same and immediately succeeding years, and by other observers of about the same period, including Zuppi, Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi. Improvements in telescopes were quickly introduced, and between 1655 and 1666 C. Huygens, R. Hooke and J. D. Cassini made more effective observations. Hooke discovered a large dark spot in the planet’s southern hemisphere on the 19th of May 1664, and from this object Cassini determined the rotation period, in 1665 and later years, as 9 hours 56 minutes.

The belts, spots and irregular markings on Jupiter have now been assiduously studied during nearly three centuries. These markings are extremely variable in their tones, tints and relative velocities, and there is little reason to doubt that they are atmospheric formations floating above the surface of the planet in a series of different currents. Certain of the markings appear to be fairly durable, though their rates of motion exhibit considerable anomalies and prove that they must be quite detached from the actual sphere of Jupiter. At various times determinations of the rotation period were made as follows:—

Date. Observer. Period. Place of Spot.
1672 J. D. Cassini 9 h. 55 m. 50 s. Lat. 16° S.
1692 9 h. 50 m. Equator.
1708 J. P. Maraldi 9 h. 55 m. 48 s. S. tropical zone
1773 J. Sylvabelle 9 h. 56 m.   ”    ”
1788 J. H. Schröter   9 h. 55 m. 33.6 s. Lat. 12° N.
1788 9 h. 55 m. 17.6 s. Lat. 20° S.
1835 J. H. Mädler 9 h. 55 m. 26.5 s. Lat. 5° N.
1835 G. B. Airy 9 h. 55 m. 21.3 s.   N. tropical zone.

A great number of Jovian features have been traced in more recent years and their rotation periods ascertained. According to the researches of Stanley Williams the rates of motion for different latitudes of the planet are approximately as under:—

Latitude. Rotation Period.
+85° to +28°   9 h. 55 m. 37.5 s.
+28° to +24° 9 h. 541/2 m. to 9 h. 561/2 m.
+24° to +20° 9 h. 48 m. to 9 h. 491/2 m.
+20° to +10° 9 h. 55 m. 33.9 s.
+10° to −12° 9 h. 50 m. 20 s.
−12° to −18° 9 h. 55 m. 40 s.
−18° to −37° 9 h. 55 m. 18.1 s.
−37° to −55° 9 h. 55 m. 5 s.

W. F. Denning gives the following relative periods for the years 1898 to 1905:—

Latitude. Rotation Period.
N.N. temperate   9 h. 55 m. 41.5 s.
N. temperate 9 h. 55 m. 53.8 s.
N. tropical 9 h. 55 m. 30 s.
Equatorial 9 h. 50 m. 27 s.
S. temperate 9 h. 55 m. 19.5 s.
S.S. temperate 9 h. 55 m. 7 s.

Fig. 1.—Inverted disk of Jupiter, showing the different currents and their rates of rotation.

The above are the mean periods derived from a large number of markings. The bay or hollow in the great southern equatorial belt north of the red spot has perhaps been observed for a longer period than any other feature on Jupiter except the red spot itself. H. Schwabe saw the hollow in the belt on the 5th of September 1831 and on many subsequent dates. The rotation period of this object during the seventy years to the 5th of September 1901 was 9 h. 55 m. 36 s. from 61,813 rotations. Since 1901 the mean period has been 9 h. 55 m. 40 s., but it has fluctuated between 9 h. 55 m. 38 s. and 9 h. 55 m. 42 s. The motion of the various features is not therefore dependent upon their latitude, though at the equator the rate seems swifter as a rule than in other zones. But exceptions occur, for in 1880 some spots appeared in about 23° N. which rotated in 9 h. 48 m. though in the region immediately N. of this the spot motion is ordinarily the slowest of all and averages 9 h. 55 m. 53.8 s. (from twenty determinations). These differences of speed remind us of the sun-spots and their proper motions. The solar envelope, however, appears to show a pretty regular retardation towards the poles, for according to Gustav Spörer’s formula, while the equatorial period is 25 d. 2 h. 15 m. the latitudes 46° N. and S. give a period of 28 d. 15 h. 0 m.

The Jovian currents flow in a due east and west direction as though mainly influenced by the swift rotatory movement of the globe, and exhibit little sign of deviation either to N. or S. These currents do not blend and pass gradually into each other, but seem to be definitely bounded and controlled by separate, phenomena well capable of preserving their individuality. Occasionally, it is true, there have been slanting belts on Jupiter (a prominent example occurred in the spring of 1861), as though the materials were evolved with some force in a polar direction, but these oblique formations have usually spread out in longitude and ultimately formed bands parallel with the equator. The longitudinal currents do not individually present us with an equable rate of motion. In fact they display some curious irregularities, the spots carried along in them apparently oscillating to and fro without any reference to fixed periods or cyclical variations. Thus the equatorial current in 1880 moved at the rate of 9 h. 50 m. 6 s. whereas in 1905 it was 9 h. 50 m. 33 s. The red spot in the S. tropical zone gave 9 h. 55 m. 34 s. in 1879–1880, whereas during 1900–1908 it has varied a little on either side of 9 h. 55 m. 40.6 s. Clearly therefore no fixed period of rotation can be applied for any spot since it is subject to drifts E. or W. and these drifts sometimes come into operation suddenly, and may be either temporary or durable. Between 1878 and 1900 the red spot in the planet’s S. hemisphere showed a continuous retardation of speed.

It must be remembered that in speaking of the rotation of these markings, we are simply alluding to the irregularities in the vaporous envelope of Jupiter. The rotation of the planet itself is another matter and its value is not yet exactly known, though it is probably little different from that of the markings, and especially from those of the most durable character, which indicate a period of about 9 h. 56 m. We never discern the actual landscape of Jupiter or any of the individual forms really diversifying it.

Possibly the red spot which became so striking an object in 1878, and which still remains faintly visible on the planet, is the same feature as that discovered by R. Hooke in 1664 and watched by Cassini in following years. It was situated in approximately the same latitude of the planet and appears to have been hidden temporarily during several periods up to 1713. But the lack of fairly continuous observations of this particular marking makes its identity with the present spot extremely doubtful. The latter was seen by W. R. Dawes in 1857, by Sir W. Huggins in 1858, by J. Baxendell in 1859, by Lord Rosse and R. Copeland in 1873, by H. C. Russell in 1876–1877, and in later years it has formed an object of general observation. In fact it may safely be said that no planetary marking has ever aroused such widespread interest and attracted such frequent observation as the great red spot on Jupiter.

The slight inclination of the equator of this planet to the plane of his orbit suggests that he experiences few seasonal changes. From the conditions we are, in fact, led to expect a prevailing calm in his atmosphere, the more so from the circumstance that the amount of the sun’s heat poured upon each square mile of it is (on the average) less than the 27th part of that received by each square mile of the earth’s surface. Moreover, the seasons of Jupiter have nearly twelve times the duration of ours, so that it would be naturally expected that changes in his atmosphere produced by solar action take place with extreme slowness. But this is very far from being the case. Telescopes reveal the indications of rapid changes and extensive disturbances in the aspect and material forming the belts. New spots covering large areas frequently appear and as frequently decay and vanish, implying an agitated condition of the Jovian atmosphere, and leading us to admit the operation of causes much more active than the heating influence of the sun.

Fig. 2.—Jupiter, 1903, July 10,
2.50 a.m.
Fig. 3.—Jupiter, 1906, April 15,
 5.50 p.m.

When we institute a comparison between Jupiter and the earth on the basis that the atmosphere of the former planet bears the same relation to his mass as the atmosphere of the earth bears to her mass, we find that a state of things must prevail on Jupiter very dissimilar to that affecting our own globe. The density of the Jovian atmosphere we should expect to be fully six times as great as the density of our air at sea-level, while it would be comparatively shallow. But the telescopic aspect of Jupiter apparently negatives the latter supposition. The belts and spots grow faint as they approach the limb, and disappear as they near the edge of the disk, thus indicating a dense and deep atmosphere. R. A. Proctor considered that the observed features suggested inherent heat, and adopted this conclusion as best explaining the surface phenomena of the planet. He regarded Jupiter as belonging, on account of his immense size, to a different class of bodies from the earth, and was led to believe that there existed greater analogy between Jupiter and the sun than between Jupiter and the earth. Thus the density of the sun, like that of Jupiter, is small compared with the earth’s; in fact, the mean density of the sun is almost identical with that of Jupiter, and the belts of the latter planet may be much more aptly compared with the spot zones of the sun than with the trade zones of the earth.

In support of the theory of inherent heat on Jupiter it has been said that his albedo (or light reflected from his surface) is much greater than the amount would be were his surface similar to that of the moon, Mercury or Mars, and the reasoning has been applied to the large outer planets, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as to Jupiter. The average reflecting capacity of the moon and five outer planets would seem to be (on the assumption that they possess no inherent light) as follows:—

Moon . . 0.1736   Jupiter  . 0.6238   Uranus . 0.6400
Mars . . 0.2672   Saturn . 0.4981   Neptune . 0.4848

These values were considered to support the view that the four larger and more distant orbs shine partly by inherent lustre, and the more so as spectroscopic analysis indicates that they are each involved in a deep vapour-laden atmosphere. But certain observations furnish a contradiction to Proctor’s views. The absolute extinction of the satellites, even in the most powerful telescopes, while in the shadow of Jupiter, shows that they cannot receive sufficient light from their primary to render them visible, and the darkness of the shadows of the satellites when projected on the planet’s disk proves that the latter cannot be self-luminous except in an insensible degree. It is also to be remarked that, were it only moderately self-luminous, the colour of the light which it sends to us would be red, such light being at first emitted from a heated body when its temperature is raised. Possibly, however, the great red spot, when the colouring was intense in 1878 and several following years, may have represented an opening in the Jovian atmosphere, and the ruddy belts may be extensive rifts in the same envelope. If Jupiter’s actual globe emitted a good deal of heat and light we should probably distinguish little of it, owing to the obscuring vapours floating above the surface. Venus reflects relatively more light than Jupiter, and there is little doubt that the albedo of a planet is dependent upon atmospheric characteristics, and is in no case a direct indication of inherent light and heat.

The colouring of the belts appears to be due to seasonal variations, for Stanley Williams has shown that their changes have a cycle of twelve years, and correspond as nearly as possible with a sidereal revolution of Jupiter. The variations are of such character that the two great equatorial belts are alternately affected; when the S. equatorial belt displays maximum redness the N. equatorial is at a minimum and vice versa.

The most plausible hypothesis with regard to the red spot is that it is of the nature of an island floating upon a liquid surface, though its great duration does not favour this idea. But it is an open question whether the belts of Jupiter indicate a liquid or gaseous condition of the visible surface. The difficulty in the way of the liquid hypothesis is the great difference in the times of rotation between the equatorial portions of the planet and the spots in temperate latitudes. The latter usually rotate in periods between 9 h. 55 m. and 9 h. 56 m., while the equatorial markings make a revolution in about five minutes less, 9 h. 50 m. to 9 h. 51 m. The difference amounts to 7.5° in a terrestrial day and proves that an equatorial spot will circulate right round the enormous sphere of Jupiter (circumference 283,000 m.) in 48 days. The motion is equivalent to about 6000 m. per day and 250 m. per hour.  (W. F. D.) 

Satellites of Jupiter.

Jupiter is attended by eight known satellites, resolvable as regards their visibility into two widely different classes. Four satellites were discovered by Galileo and were the only ones known until 1892. In September of that year E. E. Barnard, at the Lick Observatory, discovered a fifth extremely faint satellite, performing a revolution in somewhat less than twelve hours. In 1904 two yet fainter satellites, far outside the other five, were photographically discovered by C. D. Perrine at the Lick Observatory. The eighth satellite was discovered by P. J. Melotte of Greenwich on the 28th of February 1908. It is of the 17th magnitude and appears to be very distant from Jupiter; a re-observation on the 16th of January 1909 proved it to be retrograde, and to have a very eccentric orbit. These bodies are usually numbered in the order of their discovery, the nearest to the sun being V. In apparent brightness each of the four Galilean satellites may be roughly classed as of the sixth magnitude; they would therefore be visible to a keen eye if the brilliancy of the planet did not obscure them. Some observers profess to have seen one or more of these bodies with the naked eye notwithstanding this drawback, but the evidence can scarcely be regarded as conclusive. It does not however seem unlikely that the third, which is the brightest, might be visible when in conjunction with one of the others.

Under good conditions and sufficient telescopic power the satellites are visible as disks, and not mere points of light. Measures of the apparent diameter of objects so faint are, however, difficult and uncertain. The results for the Galilean satellites range between 0″.9 and 1″.5, corresponding to diameters of between 3000 and 5000 kilometres. The smallest is therefore about the size of our moon. Satellite I. has been found to exhibit marked variations in its brightness and aspect, but the law governing them has not been satisfactorily worked out. It seems probable that one hemisphere of this satellite is brighter than the other, or that there is a large dark region upon it. A revolution on its axis corresponding with that of the orbital revolution around the planet has also been suspected, but is not yet established. Variations of light somewhat similar, but less in amount, have been noticed in the second and third satellites.

The most interesting and easily observed phenomena of these bodies are their eclipses and their transits across the disk of Jupiter. The four inner satellites pass through the shadow of Jupiter at every superior conjunction, and across his disk at every inferior conjunction. The outer Galilean satellite does the same when the conjunctions are not too near the line of nodes of the satellites’ orbit. When most distant from the nodes, the satellites pass above or below the shadow and below or above the disk. These phenomena for the four Galilean satellites are predicted in the nautical almanacs.

When one of the four Galilean satellites is in transit across the disk of Jupiter it can generally be seen projected on the face of the planet. It is commonly brighter than Jupiter when it first enters upon the limb but sometimes darker near the centre of the disk. This is owing to the fact that the planet is much darker at the limb. During these transits the shadow of the satellites can also be seen projected on the planet as a dark point.

The theories of the motion of these bodies form one of the more interesting problems of celestial mechanics. Owing to the great ellipticity of Jupiter, growing out of his rapid rotation, the influence of this ellipticity upon the motions of the five inner satellites is much greater than that of the sun, or of the satellites on each other. The inclination of the orbits to the equator of Jupiter is quite small and almost constant, and the motion of each node is nearly uniform around the plane of the planet’s equator.

The most marked feature of these bodies is a relation between the mean longitudes of Satellites I., II. and III. The mean longitude of I. plus twice that of III. minus three times that of II. is constantly near to 180°. It follows that the same relations subsist among the mean motions. The cause of this was pointed out by Laplace. If we put L1 L2 and L3 for the mean longitudes, and define an angle U as follows:—

U = L1 − 3 L2 + 2 L3.

it was shown mathematically by Laplace that if the longitudes and mean motions were such that the angle U differed a little from 180°, there was a minute residual force arising from the mutual actions of the several bodies tending to bring this angle towards the value 180°. Consequently, if the mean motions were such that this angle increased only with great slowness, it would after a certain period tend back toward the value 180°, and then beyond it, exactly as a pendulum drawn out of the perpendicular oscillates towards and beyond it. Thus an oscillation would be engendered in virtue of which the angle would oscillate very slowly on each side of the central value. Computation of the mean longitude from observations has indicated that the angle does differ from 180°, but it is not certain whether this deviation is greater than the possible result of the errors of observation. However this may be, the existence of the libration, and its period if it does exist, are still unknown.

The following are the principal elements of the orbits of the five inner satellites, arranged in the order of distance from Jupiter. The mean longitudes are for 1891, 20th of October, G.M.T., and are referred to the equinox of the epoch, 1891, 2nd of October:—

Satellite V. I. II. III. IV.
 Mean Long. 264°.29 313°.7193 39°.1187 171°.2448 62°.2000
 Synodic Period  11 h. 58 m.   1 d. 18 h. .48   3d. 13h. .30  7d. 3h. .99  16d. 18m. .09 
 Mean Distance 106,400 m. 260,000 m. 414,000 m.  661,000 m.  1,162,000 m.
 Mass ÷ Mass of Jup.  (?) .00002831 .00002324 .00008125 .00002149
 Stellar Mag. 13 6.0 6.1 5.6 6.6

The following numbers relating to the planet itself have been

supplied mostly by Professor Hermann Struve.
 Filar Mic.  Heliom.
Equatorial diameter of Jupiter (Dist. 5.2028) 38″.50  37″.50
Polar diameter of Jupiter 36″.02  35″.23
Ellipticity 1 ÷ 15.5 1 ÷ 16.5
Theoretical ellipticity from motion of 900″ in the pericentre of Sat. V  1 ÷ 15.3
Centrifugal force ÷ gravity at equator 0.0900
Mass of Jupiter ÷ Mass of Sun, now used in tables 1 ÷ 1047.34
Inclination of planet’s equator to ecliptic 2° 9′.07 + 0.006t
Inclination of planet’s equator to orbit 3° 4′.80 
Long. of Node of equator on ecliptic 336° 21′.47 + 0′.762t
Long. of Node of equator on orbit 135°25′.81 + 0.729t

The longitudes are referred to the mean terrestrial equinox, and t is the time in years from 1900.0.

For the elements of Jupiter’s orbit, see Solar System; and for physical constants, see Planet.  (S. N.)