Segments in this Video

Planetary Shaping (03:30)


The largest planet of the solar system influences all others with its gravity. Evidence of its effects is found at Barringer Crater, formed 50,000 year ago when an asteroid was flung at Earth by Jupiter.

Interior Studies (04:58)

Pioneer X crossed the asteroid belt and transmitted close up images of Jupiter; Voyager missions discovered its moons. Juno examined formation processes, finding polar and inner structural details; it analyzed magnetic and gravitational fields, finding a core with hydrogen pulled around it.

Unique Evolution (04:08)

Five billion years ago, Jupiter and the sun began forming from dust and gas; the inner planets then formed and found orbits. Most system’s bodies are small, with one massive rocky exoplanet close to the parent star.

Influencing Neighbors (06:07)

Solar system exploration has revealed massive events; the asteroid belt includes much empty space, but was once much fuller. The Dawn mission investigated Ceres, finding salt patches indicating it harbored briny waters; the body was becoming a planet.

Gravitational Clearing (05:18)

Nearly five billion years ago, Ceres had liquid water protected by a layer of ice and became a dwarf planet. Jupiter began spiraling toward the sun, dispersing matter out and through the solar system, depriving the asteroid and other bodies of future construction materials.

Primordial Migration (04:09)

Jupiter’s course to the sun was halted by Saturn's formation; when their orbits connected, they became locked in mean-motion resonance and reversed directions. As they moved outward through the asteroid belt, they flung materials inward, delivering water to inner planets.

Driving Volcanism (03:56)

Io is the most volcanic environment in the solar system, featuring the largest lava lake. Jupiter and its other moons create gravitational friction and tidal heating that melt its rocks and raises interior temperatures to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Changing Evolutionary Courses (05:12)

Dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid colliding with Earth and triggering nuclear winter. The responsible body was likely flung by Jupiter’s gravity when it diverged from its orbit within the belt.

Shielding the Inner Planets (04:38)

The Atlantis mission observed comet Shoemaker-Levy IX being captured and fragmented by Jupiter’s gravity before colliding with its southern hemisphere. The most destructive impact created a seven mile diameter cloud and energy comparable to six million megatons of trinitrotoluene.

Mission Accomplished (02:49)

The Galileo Orbiter studied Jupiter for eight years and transmitted high resolution images of Europa. Analysis of the moon’s magnetic field revealed ice and an ocean sixty miles deep, containing more water than is present on Earth.

Dynamic Future (02:47)

Jupiter is the largest, oldest, and most influential planet in the solar system. The exceedingly elliptical orbit of Mercury is the product of its gravity; scientists predict it could be flung into the sun, into space or put on a collision course with Earth.

Credits: Jupiter (00:51)

Credits: Jupiter

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Episode 3: Jupiter (NOVA: The Planets)

Part of the Series : NOVA: The Planets
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Jupiter’s gravitational force made it a wrecking ball when it barreled through the early solar system. But it also shaped life on Earth, delivering comets laden with water—and perhaps even the fateful asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL191992

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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