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Jupiter and its 67 moons are pretty amazing, Europa could support life

Voyager 1 took this photo of Jupiter and two of its satellites (Io, left, and Europa) on Feb. 13, 1979. This photo was assembled from three black and white negatives by the Image Processing Lab at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (NASA/JPL Photo)

Jupiter is the king of the planets!

Did you know that Jupiter has some two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in the solar system? With a diameter of some 88,000 miles, Jupiter is a gas giant that dwarfs Earth.

We are lucky to have a planet such as Jupiter in the solar system, as it performs a major task by clearing the solar system of many unwanted asteroids and comets, which might be headed towards Earth.

Jupiter has 67 known moons — the most of any planet in the solar system — and more are expected to be discovered by the Juno spacecraft.

There are three main moon groups, the first being the four primary Jovian satellites. They were discovered by Galileo on Jan. 7, 1610, with his low-powered telescope. He named them Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto after the many lovers of the Roman god, Jupiter.

The second, called the Inner Group, is made up of small moons and the third, referred to as the irregular satellites, orbit in distant and eccentric orbits.

Modern spacecraft tell us that these moons are rather large by scale and at least one Jovian moon, Ganymede, is actually larger than the planet Mercury.

If you are looking for a location in the solar system that might harbor some type of life, look no further than Europa.

Scientists tell us that, below the ice of Europa, there might be large oceans of liquid water and possibly some type of primitive life.

Arizona observers have a great opportunity to see Jupiter!

Look to the morning sky — just before dawn — when the planet is low the southern sky in Virgo, near the bight star Spica.

You can actually see the four Jovian moons, in a pair of binoculars, if you hold them steady, but you can get better views of Jupiter in the telescope! Enjoy!

To follow the sky with Dr. Sky, get your January star chart.

If you have questions, send me an email.

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