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Jupiter to begin its reign in the Arizona night sky

(Wikimedia photo)

Jupiter is the true king of the planets.

Of all the major planets in our solar system, Jupiter is by far the most amazing in terms of its size and composition.

Jupiter is a very bright planet and will now become an easy late evening planet in our Arizona skies.

More specifically, Jupiter is the fifth-largest planet in the solar system, with a mass of one-thousandth the mass of the Sun and two-and-a-half times the mass of all the other planets in the solar system.

Jupiter is so large, you could pack some 1,321 Earths into the volume of this gas giant!

In a size comparison, you could line up nearly 12 Earths along Jupiter’s equator. Jupiter is primarily made up of mostly hydrogen and helium.

The great astronomer Galileo looked at the planet Jupiter with his crude telescope and noticed that there appeared to be small moons next to the planet.

Galileo observed these on Jan. 7, 1610.

They are named Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Jupiter now has some 79 known moons and there may be many more to be discovered.

We have an amazing opportunity to view Jupiter in our Arizona skies, as the next great opposition will take place in early June.

Begin by looking to the southeast sky as early as 10:30 p.m. local time, as Jupiter will be the brightest object in that region of the sky.

Now would be a great opportunity to have a pair of binoculars and a small telescope to begin more detailed observations of Jupiter.

A small telescope with at least a magnification of 100 times the human eye will help you to get a good view of the moons and some detail on the cloud tops of the planet.

Here is an image of Jupiter to help you identify the band and belts on the planet, as well as the famous “Red Spot” Jovian storm.

Many space probes have passed the mighty Jupiter and much has been learned about the structure of the clouds and the great Red Spot.

The latest space probe to be conducting research and imaging of Jupiter, is the Juno space probe. This is a solar powered craft that is now in orbit around Jupiter.

Here is a recent image taken by Juno.

Jupiter will reach opposition on the night of June 10 at 8:17 p.m. Mountain Time. At that time, Jupiter will rise at sunset and be in the sky all night. This is the best time to plan your observations of the planet, but a few weeks on either side of this date, is also a good time to view the planet.

Jupiter will be some 398,000,000 miles from Earth at that time, with Jupiter being well placed in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

Get set for some great views of Jupiter, the might Zeus!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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