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27 November 2014
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Pic: Mark Lawrik-Thompson
Graphic: Astronomy: your questions answered Norfolk astronomer and Chairman of the Norwich Astronomical Society Mark Lawrik-Thompson is here to answer your questions about space.
Picture: Jupiter

How long would it take you to travel to Jupiter's moon?

Read the answers to your questions on Jupiter by local astronomer, Mark.

Why is Jupiter made of gases?

Answer: Something called solar wind blows off from the Sun all the time. The nearer to the Sun you are, the stronger the wind feels.

The planets that were nearer the Sun had their atmosphere (gas surrounding them) blown away but the planets further out could keep hold of theirs and so they are made of almost entirely gas.

I know Jupiter has a ring but is it possible to see?

Answer: Jupiter, like Saturn, Uranus and Neptune has rings. However it’s only the rings of Saturn that can be seen from telescopes here on Earth. The best pictures we have got of Jupiter’s rings were taken by spacecraft visiting the planet.

What year was Jupiter discovered? Who discovered it?

Answer: Jupiter has been known about ever since mankind has looked at the night sky. Because Jupiter can be seen without a telescope, it would even have been seen by cavemen!

Can there be life on Jupiter's moons?

Answer: One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa is thought to have a deep ocean under a surface of ice.

It's quite possible that primitive life may exist deep at the bottom of the ocean around thermal vents, very much like those found at the bottom of our oceans.

On Earth, the life found down at the depths gets its energy from the vents, no sunlight reaches it. Its quite likely that life on Europa may have exist in this way too.

Picture: Close-up of Jupiter's red spot
Close-up of Jupiter's red spot

What is the temperature on Jupiter?

Answer: The temperature at Jupiter varies a lot. Its average temperature is -130 degrees.

What is Jupiter's red spot?

Answer: The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a hurricane just like the ones we get here on Earth. The only difference is that the hurricane on Jupiter is three times as big as the Earth!

If Jupiter went supernovae (blew up), would it affect Earth and if so, in what way?

Answer: A supernova is what happens at the end of a really big star's life. They blow themselves to pieces in fractions of a second.

This only happens to really big stars though. The Sun is quite average and so will not die this way. Jupiter is a planet and so will not blow up in this way.

When was Jupiter discovered?

Answer: The Romans knew about Jupiter as they gave it its name.

However, because Jupiter is so very bright, even primitive people would have known there was something special about it, as it moves, like the other bright planets, against the background stars.

So in real terms, Jupiter was not discovered on a certain date, we have just always known there was something special about that speck of light.

Can there be life on Jupiter's moon Europa?

Answer: There is a good chance there is life on Europa - very simple life, but still a good chance it is there.

Europa is a moon that is covered in a shell of ice. Below the ice is thought to be a huge ocean.

We have seen pictures from spacecraft that show yellow/brown stains in the ice which we think are a sign for life.

If life is there, then it is probably living off warmth from under water volcanoes just like life at the bottom of our seas.

How far is Jupiter from Earth?

Answer: At it's nearest to the Earth, Jupiter is about 625 million km and at its most distant from us it is around 972 million km.

Could you tell me how long is a day on Jupiter?

Answer: It actually takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds for the Earth to spin once.

This is why we see the stars creep further and further across the sky throughout the year. On Jupiter one day is just 9 hours and 55 minutes.

Read more: Planet Jupiter »

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See also

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Astronomy index

Ask the astronomer

International Space Station

Make a rocket

Make a sundial

New Planet

Planet Jupiter

Planet Mars

The Moon

Planets Pluto, Neptune and Uranus

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The Star of Bethlehem

The Sun

Your questions answered

Venus passes in front of the Sun


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