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Book II Jules Verne

Jupiter Somewhat Close

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Table Of Contents: Off on a Comet

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On the 1st of September the distance between Gallia and Jupiter was precisely the same as the mean distance between the earth and the sun; on the 16th, the distance was further reduced to 26,000,000 leagues. The planet began to assume enormous dimensions, and it almost seemed as if the comet had already been deflected from its elliptical orbit, and was rushing on in a straight line towards the overwhelming luminary.

The more they contemplated the character of this gigantic planet, the more they became impressed with the likelihood of a serious perturbation in their own course. The diameter of Jupiter is 85,390 miles, nearly eleven times as great as that of the earth; his volume is 1,387 times, and his mass 300 times greater; and although the mean density is only about a quarter of that of the earth, and only a third of that of water (whence it has been supposed that the superficies of Jupiter is liquid), yet his other proportions were large enough to warrant the apprehension that important disturbances might result from his proximity.

"I forget my astronomy, lieutenant," said Servadac. "Tell me all you can about this formidable neighbor."

The lieutenant having refreshed his memory by reference to Flammarion's Recits de l'Infini, of which he had a Russian translation, and some other books, proceeded to recapitulate that Jupiter accomplishes his revolution round the sun in 4,332 days 14 hours and 2 minutes; that he travels at the rate of 467 miles a minute along an orbit measuring 2,976 millions of miles; and that his rotation on his axis occupies only 9 hours and 55 minutes.

"His days, then, are shorter than ours?" interrupted the captain.

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"Considerably," answered the lieutenant, who went on to describe how the displacement of a point at the equator of Jupiter was twenty-seven times as rapid as on the earth, causing the polar compression to be about 2,378 miles; how the axis, being nearly perpendicular, caused the days and nights to be nearly of the same length, and the seasons to be invariable; and how the amount of light and heat received by the planet is only a twenty-fifth part of that received by the earth, the average distance from the sun being 475,693,000 miles.

"And how about these satellites? Sometimes, I suppose, Jupiter has the benefit of four moons all shining at once?" asked Servadac.

Of the satellites, Lieutenant Procope went on to say that one is rather smaller than our own moon; that another moves round its primary at an interval about equal to the moon's distance from ourselves; but that they all revolve in considerably less time: the first takes only l day 18 hours 27 minutes; the second takes 3 days 13 hours 14 minutes; the third, 7 days 3 hours 42 minutes; whilst the largest of all takes but 16 days 16 hours 32 minutes. The most remote revolves round the planet at a distance of 1,192,820 miles.

"They have been enlisted into the service of science," said Procope. "It is by their movements that the velocity of light has been calculated; and they have been made available for the determination of terrestrial longitudes."

"It must be a wonderful sight," said the captain.

"Yes," answered Procope. "I often think Jupiter is like a prodigious clock with four hands."

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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