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Discovery of Jupiter, Missions, Moons and Rings - Windows to the Universe

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This image of Jupiter was taken by Voyage I.
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Courtesy of NASA

Discover Jupiter

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. It is also one of the brighter objects in the night sky. No one knows for sure who discovered Jupiter, but we know the ancient Greeks named him after the god, Zeus.

The most prominent feature of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot. This violent storm has been observed from Earth since the 1600's. But it wasn't until the 1930's that we knew what Jupiter was made of. Astronomer Rupert Wildt researched the planet and found the atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium.

Beginning in 1973, the United States sent four spacecraft to observe this massive planet. Pioneer 10 and 11, along with Voyager I and II, sailed past Jupiter. They gathered many images that we still see today.

Jupiter's moons are interesting too! Galileo discovered four of the larger moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in 1610. Most of the other moons were found by the Voyager spacecraft during its flyby. The Jupiter system is almost like a little solar system. Astronomers may continue to discover even more moons as more powerful telescopes become available.

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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