Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations: Comparing Jupiter with Earth

Barbara Tewksbury
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Summary

Question

Below, you'll see a drawing of Jupiter showing the Great Red Spot, as well as several of the dark scars, like enormous black eyes, left as a result of the impact of fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy in 1994. If you were to cut out a circle that represented the Earth at the same scale, how big would you make the circle?

Picture of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Assessment

Answer

The Earth fits very nicely within the Great Red Spot, kind of like a blue iris in a gigantic blood-shot eye. This puts into perspective the size of the impact blemishes left by Shoemaker-Levy!

References and Resources

This SERC page describes the use of Back of the Envelope Calculations

A View from the Back of the Envelope (more info) : This site has a good number of easy simulations and visualizations of back of the envelope calculations.

The Back of the Envelope ( This site may be offline. ) : This page outlines one of the essays in the book "Programming Pearls" (ISBN 0-201-65788-0). The book is written for computer science faculty and students, but this portion speaks very well to back of the envelope calculations in general.