Jupiter and Saturn: Interesting Facts About Planets
The four furthest planets from the sun are referred to as the Jovian plants, which include both Jupiter and Saturn (as well as Uranus and Neptune). These planets are often called "gas giants" because they are composed of layers of gases surrounding a hard rock and ice interior.
Jupiter: The Fifth Planet from the Sun
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. It is so large, in fact, that it could easily fit a thousand Earths within it. It creates among the strongest of planetary magnetic fields as well, the force of which bends light to create a bright green aurora at its north pole.
Jupiter has a gaseuous surface, as its outer layers are made of hydrogen and helium, and it is impossible to walk upon. Stripes composed of different gasses give it alternating colors: red stripes made of ammonia hydrosulfide contrast with white ones of pure ammonia.
Encircled by thin rings and enshrouded by frozen lightning-emitting clouds, Jupiter is also home to a hurricane twice as large as Earth called the Great Red Spot. This storm has existed for at least a hundred years.
Jupiter has more than seventy-five moons. So large that they can be spotted with binoculars, the closest four are referred to as the Galilean moons and include Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Io has over one hundred and fifty volcanoes and Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system.
The rings surrounding Jupiter are very faint and hard to detect. They weren't discovered until 1979 by a Voyager 1 spacecraft as it passed by the planet. Later, a Galileo spacecraft determined their origin: meteoroids hitting nearby moons expelled dust that then encircled the planet.
Saturn: The Sixth Planet from the Sun
Saturn is also large, second only to Jupiter, and is the furthest planet from us that can be seen without the use of a visual aid.
Saturn has such a low density that it could theoretically float on water and its outer surface is composed of hydrogen and helium gases, as is Jupiter's.
Jupiter may have a multiple-hundred-year-old hurricane, but Saturn also boasts its own raging weather: its surrounding winds can blow at speeds of more than 1,600 feet a second.
Saturn has multiple moons, also like Jupiter, including the moon Titan which, it is hypothesized, may contain extraterrestrial life. This belief is based on the fact that it has rain, seasonal changes, and an atmosphere of nitrogen, ethane, and methane that resembles the atmosphere of primitive Earth.
Enceladus, Iapetus, and Mimas are also well-known Saturn-orbiting moons. Iapetus has both a white and a black hemisphere and Mimas has a large crater called Hershel with a diameter almost 80 miles across.
Of all the Jovian planets, Saturn has the biggest rings. These large, bright rings are made up of thousands of smaller ringlets composed of particles of various sizes. Some are as small as dust, others are as large as boulders, and all are believed to be the remnants of a destroyed moon or asteroid. The rings are divided into seven different bands and astronomers have assigned an alphabetical letter to each.
Jupiter vs. Saturn: a list of differences
Distance from the sun: Jupiter is 402 million miles closer to the Sun than Saturn.
Magnetic Field: Jupiter has one of the strongest magnetic fields of the planets in our solar system. Saturn's is much weaker.
Equatorial diameter: The equatorial diameter of Jupiter is 13,954 miles longer than the equatorial diameter of Saturn. Jupiter is the largest planet (fitting over 1,000 Earths within it) and Saturn the second largest (easily fitting over 700 Earths)
Number of moons: The exact number of orbiting moons for either planet is currently unknown, but it is believed that Jupiter has significantly more and upwards of 60. In fact, Jupiter has the most confirmed moons of any of the eight main planets.
Jupiter vs. Saturn: a list of similarities
Main atmospheric gases: Both planets have hydrogen and helium as their main atmopheric components and lack hard surfaces.
A solid core: It is believed that both Saturn and Jupiter have a hard, rocky interior core.
Violent weather: Jupiter's hurricaine and Saturn's violent winds are both naturally ocurring forms of extreme weather.
Rings: Saturn and Jupiter, as Jovian planets, have rings.