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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This is an infrared image of Jupiter showing regions which are hot.
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NASA

The Source of Heat from Within Jupiter

The energy that Jupiter and Saturn make has been found be very high.

There are several ways in which astronomical objects make energy from inside. The first is by thermonuclear fusion, the way a star makes energy. Another method is by radioactive material within the ground, the way a planet makes energy.

For the giant planets, the method which seems to be at work is the mere fact that energy is given off from when a planet is in the process of shrinking together, or collapsing on itself.

The fact that Jupiter is still collapsing together indicates that the process of planet formation is still going on. This process is providing the heat from within which causes the unusual motions in the atmosphere.


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Motions in Jupiter's Interior

Motions in the interior of a planet help carry heat from the inside to the outside. The drawing to the left illustrates a kind of global motion that is typical of motions in the atmosphere as well as the...more

An Overview of Jupiter's Interior

The Giant planets do not have the same layered structure that the terrestrial planets do. Their evolution was quite different than that of the terrestrial planets, and they have less solid material. Jupiter's...more

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The Source of Heat from Within Jupiter

The energy that Jupiter and Saturn make has been found be very high. There are several ways in which astronomical objects make energy from inside. The first is by thermonuclear fusion, the way a star makes...more

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This is the temperature profile of Jupiter's entire atmosphere. The horizontal lines indicate the boundaries between the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, and the thermosphere. ...more

A Brown Barge in the Jovian Atmosphere

This is a picture of a brown barge. The accompanying clouds, next to the barge, look very similar to earth clouds. ...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF