An observer’s guide to Jupiter for remainder of August
August presents a most amazing view of the largest planet in the solar system.
Jupiter will grace our Arizona skies in a way that we have not seen in a long time and this column is here to help you take advantage of this incredible event.
Jupiter is the largest of the major planets and has a diameter of some 88,000 miles. This is like placing 12 Earths side by side, creating a massive image of Jupiter in your mind’s eye!
Here’s Jupiter in size comparison to Earth.
Jupiter takes 11 Earth years to make a complete revolution of the sun and creeps along the ecliptic path. Currently, Jupiter lies in the zodiac sign of Aquarius and will reach a position we call “opposition,” rising at sunset Aug. 20.
The earliest observations of Jupiter were done by Galileo, back in the year 1610. He used a very crude telescope to make some amazing discovery on the night of Jan. 7, 1610.
it is documented that Galileo first used this type of telescope to discover three of the four main moons that are surrounding this gas giant.
Here’s the Galileo telescope.
His first drawing of these new moons looked like this.
More on Galileo’s discovery of the moon’s of Jupiter.
It is quite amazing that the small telescope which Galileo used only had a magnification of some 19X that of the human eye and he still made some great discoveries with this crude instrument.
Jupiter has been observed for well over 400 years and one of the other great discoveries was the observation of a great storm in the Jovian atmosphere known as the “Great Red Spot.”
Some say that astronomer Robert Hooke first observed the spot back in May 1665.
Here is an image of this most amazing storm in the Jovian atmosphere.
Jupiter is one of the fastest rotating planets we know of; an average day is just 9 hours and 55 minutes long.
You can see some great detail with Jupiter by using a small pair of binoculars. This will at least show you the basic four moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto on most clear nights.
A small telescope will reveal some additional details on the various cloud tops of the main planet. The belts and bands of Jupiter are better illustrated by this graphic.
Here’s where you can learn more about Jupiter and how to locate it in more details.
Here is a live Jupiter locater and star field map.
If you have a telescope and want to observe Jupiter at its best, here are some ways to help you get the most out of your observation sessions.
Jupiter will continue to close in on Earth until it reaches opposition Aug. 19-20. At the present time, Jupiter lies some 374 million miles from Earth and light takes 33 minutes to get from Earth to Jupiter.
Even at the speed of light, Jupiter would still take some time to get from here to there!
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
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Podcasts are available here.