Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

an abundance of life and vitality

This piece sounds celebratory and climactic but Holst actually placed it halfway through the suite. The big tune in the middle was turned into the popular patriotic hymn I vow to thee my country and, much later, the song World in Union, which has been the theme of the Rugby World Cup since 1991.

Planet facts:

  • Jupiter is the largest and oldest planet in the solar system, born about 4.5 billion years ago.
  • It is the fifth planet from the sun and is another gas giant.
  • It is made mainly of hydrogen with a quarter helium and has at least 69 moons.
  • Jupiter is named after the Roman king of the gods.
  • Jupiter is so big that it could easily swallow all of the other planets (or more than 1,300 Earths). It also weighs more than twice as much as all the other planets.
  • Despite its huge size, Jupiter is the fastest-spinning planet, rotating once in less than 10 hours.
  • Jupiter is five times as far from the Sun as the Earth, so its surface temperature is low, around -145°C. Every 13 months or so it comes closer to us and becomes very bright in the night sky.
  • Jupiter is a giant ball of gas, with no solid surface. It is mainly made of the very light gases, hydrogen and helium.
  • Telescopes show a cloudy atmosphere with colourful belts and spots. The largest feature – called the Great Red Spot – is a giant storm, several times the size of the Earth. It has been blowing non-stop for more than 300 years.
  • Jupiter has a faint ring of dust, over 100,000 km wide, that was discovered by the Voyager spacecraft.
  • It is also orbited by the largest family of satellites (63 at the latest count). Four of these, discovered by the Italian scientist Galileo in 1610, are very big. Io has hundreds of volcanoes that cover its surface with yellow-orange sulphur. Europa has a smooth, icy surface that looks like a cracked egg shell. Ganymede has light and dark patches with grooves and craters. Callisto has an ancient, cratered surface.

Suggested classroom activities

Holst reused the big tune from Jupiter as a hymn tune he called Thaxted after a village where he lived for many years. It sets words by Cecil Spring-Rice. Listen to I vow to thee my country

The same tune also became the song World in Union, the theme for the Rugby World Cup with words by Charlie Skarbek. Listen to World in Union sung by Kiri Te Kanawa

There’s even a version in Japanese by Ayaka Hirahara which was a big hit in Japan in 2004. Listen to Jupiter by Ayaka Hirahara.

Explore Holst's The Planets

Download the full resource pack for more explorations of planetary science, ideas for classroom activities, and links to external resources.