The Sun – Jupiter Barycenter

Image: You can identify Jupiter in the night sky as the “bright star” between the horns of Taurus or as being “in-line” with Orion’s shoulder, belt and foot. (Click to Enlarginate) Screen Cap from “Night Sky” for iPhone

Last week, I put up a post about the Pluto – Charon Barycenter with a teaser that there are only 3 cases in our solar system where the barycenter of two orbiting objects is found to be outside of the major mass of the pair. I found it interesting that Don (one of my co-writers on CoinOpKids) put up a post about Jupiter later in the week, as that pertains to the other barycenter that I want to tell you about!

First off, I stated earlier that there are a total of three orbital relationships that have a barycentric point outside of the major mass of the pair. One of those is between two asteroids that are locked in one of Jupiter’s Lagrangian Points, and is known as 617 Patroclus. Those are minor objects in the solar system, however, so I don’t want to bore any readers with that story. Pluto and Charon, they’re celebrities (minor, at least) in our solar system. Even more so than Pluto, Jupiter is a MAJOR player in our solar system! Since it is the largest of the planets, it shouldn’t be very surprising that the Sun / Jupiter barycenter is the other case of an external barycenter.

A Few Jovian Facts:

  1. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and is known as a gas giant. It’s mass is two and a half times greater than all the other planets combined! Even so, Jupiter’s mass is still only one-thousandth of the mass of the Sun.
  2. Jupiter is (usually) the fourth brightest body in the night sky following the Sun, the Moon and Venus. Mars is sometimes brighter than Jupiter, depending on Jupiter’s position in respect to the Earth. (See Above Picture)
  3. Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot” is actually an anticyclonic storm that is large enough to contain Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars and both of Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, when at its largest. That’s every planet, and the satellites of those planets, that is closer to the son than Jupiter!
  4. Jupiter has a faint ring system that consists of three rings, with the middle ring being the most visible. The rings are thought to be ejected material from Jupiter’s satellites Andrastea and Metis
  5. Jupiter is considered, by most, to have four moons. These four moons are known as the Galilean Moons, as they were discovered by Galileo Galilei from 1609-1610. From nearest Jupiter to farthest from, these moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Further observations show that, as of 2008, Jupiter has 63 moons, ranging in diameter from 5262.4 km (largest; Ganymede) down to 1 km (smallest; shared by 5 satellites) (See Below)

I know none of that was the point of this post, but I thought I should throw in some other pertinent info about Jupiter, simply because I could. The barycenter between Jupiter and the Sun is located outside of the major mass, being the Sun. This distance is, however, only 7% of the radius of the Sun, so it is pretty close. To put that “7% of the radius of the Sun” figure in perspective, the radius of the sun is ~347,500 km (or ~215926.4225 miles) and 7% of that is ~24,325 km (or ~15,114.85 miles). Put another way, that distance would easily accommodate the Earth and two of Earth’s moons, with a bit left over. Put another way, that distance would accommodate Jupiter’s Red Spot when it is at its smallest, ~24,000 km. Keep in mind, the Red Spot is actually a storm, meaning it’s size fluctuates from time to time. That 7% may not seem like much, and when compared to the size of the Sun or Jupiter, it’s not. Put in perspective, that 7% can be huge!

With all that said, Jupiter and the Sun are actually orbiting a point between them that is ~24,325 km away from the surface of the Sun.


About Alloy Matt

Happy Husband | Beardsman | Blogger | Dreamer | Wholigan | Drinker of Coffees | Tweeter of Hashtags | Gamer of Table Tops | Amature Astronomer | Fanboy of Apple

Posted on August 27, 2012, in Geek, Nerd, Science, Space and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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