Catch a glimpse of Jupiter and its moons this month in the Arizona sky

Apr 11, 2017, 4:58 AM
Voyager 1 took this photo of Jupiter and two of its satellites (Io, left, and Europa) on Feb. 13, 1...
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)
(NASA/JPL Photo)

Of all the major planets in the solar system, Jupiter is the largest. Observers have a ring-side seat this week to view this amazing world.

Jupiter reached opposition on April 7, meaning it is at the relatively close distance of some 414 million miles. That may seem very far away to most, but even at that distance, the planet is still a rather large object in both binoculars and telescopes.

Look to the eastern sky just after sunset and you will see this amazing planet rise after 7 p.m.

It  takes the light you see from Jupiter at least 37 minutes to get to your eye.

Jupiter is one of the classic planets, one that has been observed from the earliest of times.

Humanity began to learn more about the planet when Galileo first looked at it with his very crude telescope on Jan. 71610.

In that small telescope — which only had about 25 times magnification — Galileo spied some amazing sights: Four moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — known collectively as the Galilean Moons.

These four main moons are at least as large as our moon and one, Ganymede, is larger than the planet Mercury.

You can actually see these moons in a pair of binoculars or a telescope.

After you find the moons, keep looking. You can actually view the moons moving over the course of a few hours.

Jupiter takes some 11.9 years to orbit the sun and will be closest to the sun on Jan. 20, 2023, when it will be only 460 million miles away.

For now, each of us has an amazing month to view the mighty Jupiter and its moons, some of which can be seen in eclipse or in transit.

Here is a link to direct you to a LIVE view of the moons of Jupiter on any given night!

April skies offer something for everyone. Get you very own Dr. Sky April star chart.

Dr. Sky Blog

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Catch a glimpse of Jupiter and its moons this month in the Arizona sky