How Are Jupiter and Earth Alike?

How Was Jupiter Formed?
••• NASA

Jupiter and Earth don't appear to have anything in common. They are two different kinds of planets. Jupiter is a gas giant with no discernible solid surface, while Earth is a terrestrial planet. Jupiter's primary atmosphere consists of hydrogen and helium, while Earth's atmosphere is composed of a mix of oxygen and nitrogen and other chemicals. They are not similar in size or temperature. Yet, the two planets are alike in many ways.


The magnetic fields of Jupiter and Earth are similar. Just as on Earth, radio waves inside Jupiter accelerate electrons, causing magnetic fluctuations. However, the Jovian magnetic field is four times stronger than that of Earth's, extending a distance of 100 times Jupiter's radius. In addition, the magnetic field of both planets follow the same evolutionary pattern of growth, expansion and recovery. Occasional sub-storms on Jupiter and Earth cause the same drop in the intensity of the magnetic field (known as flux dropouts) during the growth phase.


Both Jupiter and Earth have auroras. Of course, those on Jupiter are many times stronger than those of Earth. Jupiter also has X-ray auroras, which were discovered in the 1990s. Many of these X-ray versions are larger than Earth itself. Auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere are nearly constant as a result of the dragging of the planet's magnetic field and the influence of Io, Jupiter's nearest moon. On Earth, auroras come and go, and are caused by solar storms instead of internal energy.


The Marine Science Department at The University of South Florida may have linked the Earth's ocean currents with the cloud bands that circle Jupiter. The bands on Jupiter are caused as clouds move along alternating air flows. Similarly, Earth's oceans have alternating bands which also represent a flow pattern. Although there is an obvious difference between ocean and air currents, both phenomena are caused by turbulence.

Quasi-Biennial Oscillations

In the process of researching Jovian storms deep within the atmosphere, researchers found that methane located over Jupiter's equator follows a hot-cool cycle over a 4-to-6 year period. This reveals evidence that the planet's equatorial stratosphere alternates between warm and cold periods. This process resembles the alternating wind patterns which occur just over Earth's equator, known as a Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO). On Earth, this change in stratospheric wind direction is caused by sunlight differences. On Jupiter, they may be caused by storms which rise from lower to higher layers of the atmosphere or from excess internal heat. Since both planets have high rotation speeds, both have QBOs located near the equator.

Ring currents

Earth and Jupiter both have a high-altitude ring of electrical current. Although it had been speculated since the early 1900s that Earth had such a current, it was not seen until 2001. As viewed from the north, Earth's ring current circles the planet in a clockwise direction, decreasing the magnetic field in the area it travels. This affects the strength of geomagnetic storms in the same area. On Jupiter, the ring current has a different role. Although it too interacts with the planet's magnetic field, it primarily serves to keep ionic plasma, which is constantly being stripped from the nearby moon Io, from escaping the planet's stratosphere.


Jupiter and Earth are two of the many planets in the solar system that emit X-rays. There are two types of X-ray emissions. One type originates from the polar regions of the planets. These are known as "auroral emissions." The other type comes from the equatorial regions and are also known as "low latitude" or "disk X-ray emissions." These are probably caused when solar x-rays are scattered by the planets' atmospheres.

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