Friday, October 25, 2013

The Oceans of Jupiter

Most of you probably know that Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system (and if you didn’t, now you do). Its size is simply staggering: Jupiter’s volume is large enough to contain 1,300 Earth-sized planets; it contains 70% of the solar system’s planetary material; and it is so large that it has over 60 moons (67 confirmed so far). This is the king of the planets. So saying that this beast has little in common with planet Earth is rather obvious. But today, I wanted to talk about one commonality between Jupiter and the Earth: oceans.

For starters, this planet is a gas giant that is composed primarily of swirling clouds of hydrogen and helium (90% of the planet is hydrogen and the other 10% is almost entirely helium). Since it is a gas giant, you might suppose that the planet couldn’t possibly have liquid oceans, but you would be wrong. Typically, when we think of oceans, we think of surfers and sail boats, we picture crystal clear waters with softly crashing waves, and imagine coral reefs teeming with strange and exotic life.

But there are many kinds of oceans.

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