Our Earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours. Well not exactly. It takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds to be precise. But how about all the other planets in your system. NASA’s James O’Donaghue created a wonderful animation to put all this into perspective and make it easier for us mere humans to understand:
O’Donaghue added some answers to frequently asked questions about relative rotation and axial tilts of mapped planets:
FAQ1: What defines the tilts?
Tilts for each planet are found by the right-hand rule – if you close your hand and keep your thumb out: the direction of planetary rotation is given by your fingers, while thumb points north. These are tilts relative to each planet’s orbital plane (Mercury has no season, Uranus is… weird).
FAQ2: Why are the planets tilted?
The tilts are largely a result, we think, of early impacts by giant asteroids/planetesimals in the early formation of the solar system.
FAQ3: Why are big planets rapidly rotating?
In the early Solar System, Jupiter and other giant planets took in a lot of gas. This material was in motion, orbiting the Sun. The gas did not lose its momentum when pulled in, instead it was added to the rotation speed of the planet. Big planets are often fast for this reason.
Made with After Effects, post-it notes and coffee. Data from NASA’s fact sheets at https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/ (except for Saturn’s rotation, I used a 2019 paper for that, more up to date.
As you can see the differences are quite big. Jupiter is spinning like a mad-man – turning around every 10 hours. To put it into perspective: The surface of the earth (at the equator is traveling at roughly 1,000 miles per hour. Jupiter’s fastest point reaches 28,000 miles per hour. Buckle up your seatbelts.
Jupiter doesn’t only spin fast, the planet also creates the biggest gravity wells in our solar system.