Can We Live On Jupiter?

We’ve all thought it - if something happened that made Earth insufficient for the needs or survival of the human race, (like if the Earth gets overpopulated, or an asteroid is about to crash into it), where will we, as a species, find to call home next?

Some might look to Jupiter. 

Jupiter is five planets away from the sun. As the sun becomes more active, it’s to no surprise that some people might be wondering which planets might be far away enough to escape space-related disasters such as solar flares or asteroids, whilst still being close enough to Earth that we can get to it relatively easily.

Unfortunately, even if we could get to Jupiter, living there is probably impossible. Jupiter's core is hotter than the surface of the sun, and scientists aren’t sure if this core is something solid and extremely hot, or if it’s a molten, 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit soup.

This means that we don’t even know if we could land on Jupiter's surface - and we almost certainly wouldn’t be able to without being fried or boiled, anyway.

If these factors aren’t enough to make your prospective new home no-gogo, we’ve got another interesting fact for you: the surface pressure on Jupiter is so high, that you can’t get closer to Jupiter than 75 miles below its clouds.

This was demonstrated by the Galileo probe that landed on Jupiter in 1995 - it only took 58 minutes for the probe to be completely destroyed by the surface pressure. This means that walking around on Jupiter is definitely not an option.

Is Jupiter Hot Or Cold?

Jupiter’s temperature is actually both hot and cold, depending on where you are - the closer you are to Jupiter's core, the hotter it is.

Temperatures in the clouds of Jupiter are around -234 degrees Fahrenheit, as Jupiter doesn’t receive heat from the sun, because of how far away it is. This means that these areas of Jupiter are considerably cold.

Contrastingly, the temperature of Jupiter's core is a staggering 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit - this is hotter than the surface of the sun!

This means that life on Jupiter isn’t feasible, because we’d either be frozen alive on entry and boiled alive on arrival unless we had really advanced (and expensive) equipment in order to counteract these extreme temperatures.

Why Is Jupiter So Cold?

Jupiter is colder the further from the core you get. This is because planets are warmed by the sun. and Jupiter five planets away from the sun, meaning that the only heat that Jupiter has is produced by its core.

As a result, the outer edges of Jupiter are extremely cold, plummeting down to temperatures as low as -234 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can We Breathe On Jupiter?

Everyone knows that Oxygen is an absolute staple here on Earth - without it, we can’t breathe. Oxygen actually makes up around 21% of our atmosphere, and it plays an incredibly important role in our survival. This means that any prospective new home planet would ideally have a large quantity of oxygen within its atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Jupiter doesn't have any oxygen within its atmosphere at all. Jupiter’s atmosphere is mainly made up of hydrogen and helium - hydrogen takes up around 90% of the atmosphere, and helium makes up around 10%.

Amusingly, this means that even if there was a way around the oxygen problem, anyone talking on a trip to Jupiter would probably have a pretty high-pitched voice!

This would be a big problem for any prospective Jupiter dwellers, as it means that in order to breathe on Jupiter, we would probably need to bring our oxygen, as it is not present on the planet.

If we need to supply Jupiter with oxygen, then we would also need to think about the logistics of getting the oxygen to Jupiter - at the time of writing, a trip to Jupiter could take anywhere from 2 to 6 years, so supply trips would have to be scheduled, and they probably wouldn’t occur very often.

They would also take an exceptional amount of fuel, making supply trips like these even less likely to happen frequently. This means that surviving on Jupiter is almost impossible.

There are a small number of compounds, such as water vapor, methane, ammonia, and sulfur detectable within the atmosphere too - however, these are available in exceptionally small quantities.

Who Has Landed On Jupiter?

Jupiter is way too dangerous for any humans to land on it yet. At the time of writing, we have, however, sent two probes to Jupiter - the Galileo Atmospheric Probe, which we sent to Jupiter in 1995, and another probe named Galileo, which we sent in 2003.

This is because Jupiter is a gas planet, meaning that as far as we can tell, there aren’t any hard surfaces that could be used to land on. Even if there were, it is highly unlikely that we would ever be able to land on Jupiter because the surface pressure is extremely high and gets even stronger the closer to the planet's core you get.

Another reason that this is unlikely is that the core of Jupiter is hotter than the sun. Landing on Jupiter would almost certainly result in both the craft and the pilot being crushed and melted as a result of the intense heat and pressure.

Why Is Jupiter So Radioactive?

Jupiter has an extremely strong magnetic field surrounding the planet - this magnetic force even reaches past its many moons, and is called the magnetosphere.

The magnetosphere affects any charged particles within this space, and it accelerates this mixture of both positively and negatively charged particles (or ions), to the point that they have very high energy.

When this happens, the energy these ions are charged with leads them to form belts of radiation. Whilst many other planets have radiation belts, Jupiter's radiation belts are extremely radioactive in comparison to other planets.

One incredible upside to this is that Jupiter has intensely beautiful light shows, created by a very similar effect to what causes the aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, here on Earth.

If you’d like an idea of what it might look like, you can see the Northern Lights for yourself in places like Finland and Norway!

Unfortunately, the auroras these radiation belts cause is probably the only silver lining to the radiation. The radiation, which is as strong as 10 million of the X-rays you might have when you visit the dentist, causes so much damage that most spacecraft must avoid any radiation when visiting Jupiter.

Is There Presence Of Water On Jupiter?

There is actually water on Jupiter!

In the 1970s during Voyagers probes of Jupiter, the presence of water was alluded to when lightning storms were detected. Lightning storms suggest the presence of water because This is because here on Earth, lightning can be created when both water and ice within the clouds interact, creating an electric charge.

It wasn’t until data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft that is currently in orbit did we discover that incredibly, 0.25% of the atmosphere on Jupiter is made up of water - however, the lightning on Jupiter seems to be caused by the ammonia, water, and ice reacting and creating a charge, meaning that this lightning is strange and different to the lightning we have here on earth.

Whilst the amount of water that we have detected on Jupiter isn’t much, the presence of water on a planet that isn’t the Earth is always exciting, as this means that there is potential for life, and it shows that water can appear outside of Earth, allowing phenomena such as the lightning on Jupiter to occur.

The water on Jupiter is mainly found in the troposphere. The troposphere extends 50km above the surface of the planet.

Whilst the presence of water is promising, the main chemical components of the Jupiters troposphere are ammonia and ammonium hydrosulfide. This chemical makeup forms the red and white bands that wrap around the planet, giving Jupiter its characteristic rusty, cream colours.

The colder white bands that can be seen in pictures of Jupiter are icy white vapour clouds - these are where most of the water molecules on Jupiter will be found.

These vapour clouds are known as ‘zones’. They seem to be kept separate from the warmer red bands, which are known as ‘belts’, by the planet’s strong, swirling winds, which is what gives the planet its distinctive, stripey look. 

The lighter-colored zones rise higher into the atmosphere, whereas the darker-coloured belts are heavier elements, sinking downwards. 

Gordon Watts
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