• Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It contains twice the mass of all the other planets combined. About 1,300 Earths could fit inside Jupiter and one would have to line up about 11 Earths to equal one Jupiter diameter. If Jupiter was only 80 times more massive, nuclear fusion would have occurred in its core and it would be a star rather than a planet.
• Jupiter has rings. In fact, all of the gas giants have them. Contrary to Saturn’s grand system of bright, icy rings, Jupiter’s are made of dust and very faint.
• Jupiter is one of the four gas giants, along with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These planets, also known as the Jovian planets (after Jupiter, which was named after the Roman king of the gods, Jove) are the largest in the solar system and consist mostly of gases such as hydrogen and helium.
Jupiter continues to shine brightly in the eastern skies just after sunset. Here are a dozen fun facts about the king of the planets:
• Jupiter is one of five planets visible to the unaided eye, along with Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn. It was thus visible to ancient observers, well before telescopes came along. Jupiter’s earliest recorded observations date back to Babylonian times of the 7th – 8th centuries B.C.
• Jupiter has the shortest day of any of the planets, lasting only 9 hours and 55 minutes. Its fast spinning causes it to flatten a bit, giving it a slightly oblate shape.