By Lulu Gleason
So in honor of our biggest gas giant in the sky I’ve decided to do a couple of blogs on planets. I’m starting with Jupiter simply because right now (well at night or in the early hours) we can see Jupiter. I wanted to look at both scientific and mythological sides to this.
To get a feel as to what Jupiter is all about. I remember as a kid watching 2010 which was a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey which was a kooky story about how Jupiter turns into a star and the events that led up to this point told via Arthur C. Clarke (author of all space odyssey science fiction novels). It’s fueled this need to get to know my universe just a bit more than what I learned in grade school.
In science, Jupiter is mostly composed of hydrogen and helium (88-92% hydrogen and 8-12% helium). It roughly orbits the sun every 12 years and it’s one the largest planets in our solar system that is classified as a gas giant. There are 64 moons around Jupiter.
The most famous ones were named by Simon Marius back in 1610 and they are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. You can even see those moons with binoculars or a small telescope in clear evenings if Jupiter is in the right spot. Being such a big planet that can be seen from earth there have been so many different stories told about its existence.
Since you can see Jupiter with the naked eye it’s not surprising that many cultures have different adaptations of this planet that co-inside with their religion or even their astrology. Jupiter can be so bright that it’s commonly mistaken as a star. In culture Jupiter played may rolls through human history. In Babylonian times Jupiter was represented by their god Marduk.
Babylonians used the orbit of this planet as a way to help define the constellation of their zodiac. It’s not unknown for civilizations to use planets or stars to help understand the universe. In Classic Roman Mythology Jupiter was the king of all gods and the equivalent to Zeus in Greek mythology. In Mediterranean mythology (Roman and Greek) Jupiter is a very strong figure amongst other deities.
I guess when you have the title ‘king of the gods’ you need to have a strong presents in religion. In Asiatic communities the planet Jupiter was also called the wood star based on the Chinese 5 elements. As a fun fact, Thursday drives from ‘Thor’s Day’, the god Thor, in Germanic mythology, being associated with the planet Jupiter.
So many interesting facts on both ends, such a HUGE planet to get to them all! Jupiter is an interesting study in not only science but in mythology as well. Jupiter has helped shaped religions, zodiacs, and other sources. But even with all the information out there about Jupiter we are still learning so many things about its existence. I can hardly wait for the next discovery!
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By Lulu Gleason