The answer to “how far is Jupiter from Earth” can have a different answer every day of the year. The planets both travel in their elliptical orbits getting closer then farther apart. When Earth and Jupiter are at their closest to each other they are 628,743,036 km apart. At their most distant from each other they are 928,081,020 km apart. In astronomical units the distance varies from 4.2 AU to 6.2 AU.
All of the planets follow an elliptical orbit. When the planet is closest to the Sun it is called perihelion. When it is farthest it is called aphelion. The difference between perihelion and aphelion determines how eccentric an orbit is. Jupiter and Earth have two of the least eccentric orbits in our Solar System.
Earth and Jupiter 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.
Jupiter is frequently the third brightest object in the night sky behind the Moon and Venus. When Earth and Jupiter are at their closest approach to each other, only the Moon can outshine the planet. Jupiter is so massive that it creates many effects throughout the Solar System. Some scientist believe that the tidal effects of Jupiter as it reaches perihelion could cause sunspots to increase in frequency. It is easy to understand how Jupiter could cause tidal effects when you consider that it is 318 times more massive than the Earth.
Despite its size, Jupiter rotates faster than any other planet in our Solar System. The speed of its rotation has flattened it more than some other planets. On Jupiter the poles are 4,600 km closer to the planet’s center than the equator is.
Jupiter’s mass and other aspects allow it to have a strong gravitational pull. That strong gravity has allowed the planet to capture many satellites. Currently, Jupiter is acknowledged to have 50 moons and 14 provisional moons. Many of those are thought to have been asteroids that were captured when they wandered too close to Jupiter’s influence.
The answer to ”how far is Jupiter from Earth” does not have a single clear cut answer. It varies day to day depending on the position of each planet in their respective orbits. There are many concrete answers about the planet to be had. All you have to do is a little research.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast just about Jupiter. Listen here, Episode 56: Jupiter.
Jerry Coffey is a Registered Nurse and father of 5. He enjoys skydiving, astronomy, and time with his children.