“How long goes it take Jupiter to orbit the Sun?” is a question that we get from time to time here on Universe Today. Jupiter orbits the Sun every 11.86 Earth years (or 4,332 days). The longer orbital period for Jupiter is because it orbits at an average distance of 778 million km(Earth orbits at an average of 150 million km).
Above I mentioned Jupiter’s semi-major axis is 778 million km. At perihelion Jupiter can be as close to the Sun as 740,679,835 km and at aphelion it is 816,001,807 km away. Jupiter is tilted on its axis by 3.13 degrees. With such a slight tilt, the planet does not experience seasons.
Jupiter is the only planet that has a center of mass with the Sun that lies outside the volume of the Sun. The center of mass is approximately7% outside of the Sun’s volume. The elliptical orbit of Jupiter is inclined 1.31 degrees compared to the Earth. While in its orbit, Jupiter rotates faster than any other planet in our Solar System. It completes one rotation(day) every 9.97 hours. In order to rotate so fast, Jupiter has to have a centripetal acceleration at its equator of 1.67 m/s2. When this is compared to its equatorial surface gravity of 24.79 m/s2, the net acceleration that would be felt at the equatorial surface is close to 23.12 m/s2. The quick rotation has flattened the planet into a visible oblate spheroid. The flattening can actually be noticed through Earth based telescopes. Jupiter is flattened to the point that the equatorial diameter is 9275 km longer than the diameter measured through the poles.
Have you ever wondered how far it is from Earth to Jupiter? The answer changes every day as the planets move through the Solar System, but they can be as close as 893 million km apart. At their most distant they are 964 million km apart. They are closest to each other when Earth is at aphelion and Jupiter is at perihelion. They are the most distant when they are on opposite sides of the Sun and both are at aphelion.
Hopefully, finding out the answer to “how long does it take Jupiter to orbit the Sun” inspires you to do more research on the entire Jovian system. If you do, you will find volcanoes, oceans of slush, and places that may harbor conditions ideal for life.
We have also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast about Jupiter. You can listen here, Episode 56: Jupiter.