What is the Surface of Jupiter Like?

A true-color image of Jupiter taken by the Cassini spacecraft. The Galilean moon Europa casts a shadow on the planet's cloud tops. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to stand on Jupiter’s surface? Well, there’s a problem. Jupiter is made up almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with some other trace gases. There is no firm surface on Jupiter, so if you tried to stand on the planet, you sink down and be crushed by the intense pressure inside the planet.

When we look at Jupiter, we’re actually seeing the outermost layer of its clouds. Jupiter upper atmosphere is made of up to 90% hydrogen, with 10% helium, and then other gases like ammonia. The bands and storms that we can see on the planet are all generated in the upper atmosphere. The cloud layer we can see is made of ammonia, and only extends down for about 50 km or so. The large storms like the Great Red Spot occur within this layer; although it’s thought they may dredge up material from deeper down inside the planet.

If you could stand on the surface of Jupiter, you would experience intense gravity. The gravity at Jupiter’s surface is 2.5 times the gravity on Earth. If you weighed 100 pounds on Jupiter, you’d weigh 250 pounds on Jupiter. Of course, there’s no actual surface, so you’d just sink into the planet if you tried to stand on it.

We’ve written many articles about Jupiter for Universe Today. Here’s an article about how Jupiter might have captured a comet as a temporary moon, and does Jupiter have a solid core?

If you’d like more info on Jupiter, check out Hubblesite’s News Releases about Jupiter, and here’s a link to NASA’s Solar System Exploration Guide to Jupiter.

We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Jupiter. Listen here, Episode 56: Jupiter.