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The planet Jupiter can be seen with the naked eye, and has been known and identified throughout human history, though not always as a planet.
It’s been observed since ancient times by civilizations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. These early astronomers observed Jupiter's bright appearance and tracked its motion across the night sky.
The Babylonians recorded its movements as early as the 7th century BCE, while the Greeks and Romans associated it with the king of the gods, namely Zeus and Jupiter respectively.
In the early 17th century, Galileo Galilei revolutionized astronomy with the invention of the telescope. In 1610, Galileo turned his telescope towards Jupiter and made several remarkable observations. He discovered four bright objects orbiting Jupiter, which appeared to be small moons. These were later named the Galilean moons in his honor. Galileo's observations shattered the prevailing belief in geocentrism, which held that all celestial bodies revolved around the Earth.
Pioneer 10 and 11 launched in 1972 and 1973 respectively, and were the first NASA missions to fly by Jupiter, providing close-up images and valuable data about the planet's atmosphere and magnetic field.
In 1977 the twin Voyager spacecrafts were launched, and performed detailed flybys of Jupiter in 1979. They provided extensive data on Jupiter's atmosphere, its Great Red Spot storm, and its intricate system of moons.
Launched in 1989, the Galileo spacecraft became the first to orbit Jupiter, studying the planet and its moons extensively for almost 8 years. Galileo's observations included the first direct measurement of Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as close-up views of its moons, revealing their complex geology.
The Juno spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter in 2016. Juno's mission aims to study Jupiter's magnetic field, gravitational field, and its internal structure. It has provided new insights into the planet's deep atmospheric dynamics and magnetic field.
WHAT WE KNOW
This planet has a unique feature called the Great Red Spot, a giant storm larger than the Earth.
Jupiter is considered a gas giant and is about 11 times the diameter of Earth
Jupiter's atmosphere is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium gases with some trace elements.
It is known for its beautiful bands of clouds, including the light-colored zones and the darker belts. Did you know that Jupiter has more than 75 moons? These include Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. These moons have their own unique characteristics, like the volcanoes of Io or Europa's icy surface.
Last updated February 23, 2023. Content written by Trevor Macduff.
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