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Sienna Seas

Professor McLaughlin
May 14, 2015
Jupiters Mass
Since the beginning of time, humans have looked to the sky for answers. Answers for
why things happen and how our world works. It started with Ptolemy, who believed in a
geocentric model, that Earth was the center while everything else moved around it. His model fit
well, was testable, and gave predictions, but these predictions were not always correct. From
unreliable predictions, Copernicus created a heliocentric model with the sun at the center.
Copernicus stuck with the circular orbits as Ptolemy predicted, but these seemed to be flawed as
time went on. Next came Kepler, who introduced elliptical orbits for the planets. His model
seemed more complicated but was more accurate. Kepler couldnt explain exactly why the
planets moved in this way, but then came Newton. Newton came up with laws of motion that
would explain why the planets moved in elliptical orbits. All this history seems almost irrelevant
to astronomy today, but without the past, we wouldnt be where we are in our understanding of
the planets.
We will be testing whether Newton and Keplers understanding of the movements of the
planets are true. Through a small simulation of Jupiter and four of its moons, we will be able to
record orbital distances and time, just like a miniature solar system. This easy access will allow
for this research to be done in a timely manner. By testing the formula from Kepler and Newton,
we will calculate Jupiters mass. This helps give us a better understanding of how modern
astronomy works today and where our conclusions today came from.
By following Jupiter and its moons, we will show Newtons generalization of Keplers 3rd
Law. This will help show how the models have evolved over time, just like Newton evolved

Keplers Law into a simpler form. Through our own calculations using Newtons generalization,
we will be able to show that Keplers 3rd Law still stands. The formula that we will be using to

determine Jupiters mass is P2

. It will not matter which moon is used to determine the mass

of Jupiter, because Keplers 3rd Law is supposed to hold true for all systems. The mean of the
four calculations of the moons, Io, Europa, Gamymade, and Calisto, will yield a fairly accurate
estimation of Jupiters mass. This means that we can obtain Jupiters mass individually from the
moons and as an average to see how close our calculations are to the actual mass.
Again, the formula we will be using is P2 . The a in Keplers 3rd Law represents the
semi-major axis of the moons orbit. This is the average orbital distance from the moon to Jupiter.
For circular orbits, this would be like a radius of a circle. We can test to see if these orbits are
circular by measuring out to the east and the west of Jupiter, how far that moon reaches outward.
The p in Keplers 3rd Law represents the orbital period, how long it takes for the moon to go all
the way around Jupiter once. While the moon travels out the east and the west of Jupiter, we will
also be able to see if it takes the same amount of time for the moon to travel out to both ends. If
these times are the same, then we will know that the moons orbit is circular, also making the
orbital distance a radius.
While recording the orbital periods and the average orbital distance, I will put the
measurements into a table to keep information organized. This will allow for an easier
calculation process for Jupiters moon. However, because the measurements are in days and
pixels, we have to convert the data into years and Astronomical Units. This will allow for the

formula of


to be used to find Jupiters mass in Solar Mass Units, and then converted into

kilograms by using the conversion 1.989 X 10 kg for every 1 SMU.


232.5 pixels
.00276 AU

1.85 days
.00506 year

281.5 pixels
4.63 X 103 AU
3.62 days
9.93 X 103 year

299.5 pixels
7.340 X 103 AU

264 pixels
.0126 AU

7.0833 days

17.41674 days

.0194 year

.04771 year

Jupiters Mass in

8.211 X 104 SMU

1.012 X 103 SMU

1.051 X 103 SMU

8.788 X 104 SMU

Jupiters Mass in

1.63 X 1027 KG

2.014 X 1027 KG

2.0899 X 1027 KG

1.748 X 1027 KG

In the table shown above, there are the measurements from four of Jupiters moons. To
measure the orbital distances and period of Jupiters moons, we will use a simulation through a
Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy (CLEA) system on our computers. This
will allow us to take specific measurements of where the moons are according to their orbit
around Jupiter. Instead of using a telescope to watch Jupiter and the moons orbits, we can fast
forward this process to watch the moons orbit and take measurements at multiple places. Also,
this will keep track of the orbital period as time moves forward through the simulation.
Finding the measurements for Io, I took down the pixels when the moon reached the
farthest west and the farthest east points in its orbit around Jupiter. This allowed me to come up
with the measurement of 465 pixels, which we have to divide in half to determine the orbital
distance, a radius of the orbit in other words. 232.5 pixels would then have to be converted into
Astronomical Units to be used in the formula. To do this, we take the measurement of Jupiter in

pixels (81) and set it up equal to the actual diameter of Jupiter at 147,984 kilometers from our

81 pixels
textbook, In Quest of the Universe, like shown, 147,984 KM . Then, we can convert from

1 AU
kilometers into Astronomical Units by multiplying by 149,597,841 KM . We then get .00276
Astronomical Units as the orbital distance of Io. This would be the a for Keplers equation. For
the orbital period, the CLEA system tracks time in Julian days. Subtracting the first and second
number of days, we get half of the period at .925 days. These numbers were acquired at the same
time the pixels were, the farthest west and east points of Ios orbit. We need to double the amount
of days to get the full orbital period for Io, 1.85 days. For Keplers formula, we have to convert
1.85 days into years by dividing by 365. We get .00506 years to use in our equation. After
plugging in .00276 AU for a and .00506 year for p, we get Jupiters mass at
8.211 X 104 SMU . However, to compare to Jupiters actual mass, we would need to convert


1.989 X 10 KG
this into kilograms. To do this, we use the conversion
. This gives us


1.63 X 10 KG

for Jupiters mass, which is approximate to Jupiters actual mass at


1.899 X 10 KG . We repeat the process for the other three moons, Europa, Gamymade, and
Calisto. Getting essentially the same mass for Jupiter, we can see that the moons have close to
circular orbits, allowing us to find the mass of Jupiter by each moon.

Through observing four of Jupiters moons to calculate Jupiters mass, we can see the
validation of Newtons generalization of Keplers Third Law. Even though the masses
individually do not equal the exact actual mass of Jupiter, we can see that it is close enough, with
room for error. The average of the four masses collected is 1.87 X 10 KG , close to the actual

mass of 1.899 X 10 KG .

Works Cited
Koupelis, Theo. In Quest of the Universe. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2007. Print.