The astronomical symbol for Jupiter, pictured here, has been described as a stylized number four, an artistic rendition of Jupiter’s thunder bolt, an eagle, and the letter zeta which is the Greek letter z for Zeus. Zeus is Jupiter’s namesake in Greek mythology. The same symbol represents tin, since it is one of the planetary metals in alchemy.
It is not unusual for a planet or moon to get its name from Greek or Roman mythology as well as derive its symbol from that particular personality: Neptune the God of the Sea, Mars the God of War, Mercury the Messenger, Saturn the God of Time and father of Jupiter, Uranus was the father of Saturn, Venus the Goddess of Love, and Earth, well Earth is the only planet not named in the Greco-Roman tradition. Jupiter was the Roman king of gods and the god of the sky and thunder. As the patron god of ancient Rome, Jupiter ruled over laws and social order. He was one of three gods of the Capitoline Triad with Juno and Minverva. The most important temple in the Roman empire was dedicated to Iuppiter Optimus Maximus (Jupiter Best and Greatest).
Alright, now that you know the symbol for Jupiter, let’s move on to a few interesting facts about the planet. Did you know that:
If Jupiter gets much more massive it will shrink. Additional mass would actually make the planet more dense, and start pulling it in on itself. Astronomers estimate that Jupiter could end up with 4 times its current mass, and still remain about the same size.
Scientist believe that Jupiter is a failed star, but that is a bit of a misnomer. Stars generate energy through fusion. The enormous gravity of a star creates heat and pressure that fuses atoms of hydrogen to create helium. Jupiter would need more than 70 times its current mass to ignite nuclear fusion.
Jupiter has been visited by seven spacecraft at this time. The first to stop by was Pioneer 10 in 1973, then Pioneer 11 in 1974. Five years later, in 1979, Voyager 1 and 2. After a break in the action, Ulysses arrived in 1992. Cassini made a flyby in 2000, and the New Horizons spacecraft made its flyby in 2007. The most recent is the Dawn spacecraft which is to be launched in just a few days on August 5, 2011, but will not arrive until 2016.
As you can see, knowing the astronomical symbol for Jupiter is just scratching the surface of knowledge about the planet.
Here’s a list of all the zodiac symbols.