We all know that Jupiter is the largest of the 8 planets in our solar system, but most people aren’t aware of just how far it would be for us to travel there. We’re constantly talking about going to Mars, and Jupiter is just the next planet along from there, right?
Well, whilst it is not quite as far as Saturn and the two furthest planets from the Sun, Jupiter is still pretty far away from us. How much further? Well, that’s what we’re going to take a look at to find out.
How many miles away is Jupiter from Earth?
Actually, on average, Jupiter is approximately 444 million miles away from the planet Earth, However, this can vary depending on the stage of orbit the planet is currently in, as Jupiter goes around the Sun in an elliptical orbit.
If we look at the closest Jupiter and Earth can come to each other, then there’s actually only going to be around 365 million miles between the two. But at their farthest, they can drift more than 600 million miles apart from one another. Obviously, across the course of a year, Jupiter and Earth are varying distances between these two figures from each other.
The best way to put this sort of distance into perspective is by using AU, or astronomical units – one AU is equivalent to 93 million miles. These are based on the Earth’s distance from the Sun – the Earth is one AU from the Sun. Now, if we look at Mars, the average distance between us and the planet is 1.5 AU, but in some circumstances, we can be as close as 0.4 AU away.
Comparing this with Jupiter, we’re never closer than 4 AU away from the planet, and at some points, we can be more than 6 astronomical units away. The distances between the planets grow greater and greater the further that you travel out from the Sun. You can read more cool facts about Jupiter in this article. But for now, we’re going to take a quick look at the Asteroid belt.
The Icy moons mission is supposedly launching in 2022, and it’ll take 8 years for it to reach Jupiter, though the distance varies.
Earth to Jupiter: The Asteroid belt
You may think that travelling all the way to Jupiter would be difficult, given that the Asteroid belt runs between Mars and Jupiter. However, that actually wouldn’t be too much of a problem.
In all of the classic space movies, Asteroids are something to be feared when travelling through space. And you may think that the Asteroid belt is absolutely full of.. well, asteroids! Well, it is, but the truth is that space is much bigger than what most people think.
We know that there are between 1 and 2 million asteroids in the belt, but actually, when you account for all the space in between them, this isn’t so much. It would actually be relatively easy for a spacecraft to navigate through the Asteroid belt without having to worry about hitting one.
This is best evidenced by the spacecrafts that were launched and actually travelled through the Asteroid belt, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. So, even though Jupiter is past the Asteroid belt, that doesn’t mean to say that we couldn’t travel through it to get there.
All in all, there’s a good reason why astronomers generally avoid talking about realistically travelling to the Jovian planets in the near future. The main one is the distance, with Mars being much closer to the Earth than any other planet, it is actually realistically possible for us to travel there.
As well as this, Mars is the only planet with a temperature that we could possible survive at, and Jupiter & Saturn are primarily made of gas too (both of these planets are considered to be a gas giant, as opposed to Neptune and Uranus, which are considered nowadays to be ice giants instead).