If you’ve never seen Jupiter up close under a telescope you’re really missing out on something spectacular. It is now late August and Jupiter can only be seen in the western sky just after sunset. However, a few months ago Jupiter was visible directly above the southern sky making it very easy to see with the naked eye. If you have a telescope like me, you’ve probably pointed towards Jupiter to gaze at the two large brown bands running horizontally around it.
The first time I saw these bands was absolutely breath taking. I was so excited that I ran into my house to tell my wife. Even she thought it was pretty cool after observing them through the telescope. The next striking feature are the four Galilean moons orbiting this gas giant. In 1610, Galileo Galilei discovered these moons which, became known as Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto (Zimmermann, 2012). The four Galilean moons can be easily seen with most refractor telescopes. Unless you have a larger refractor telescope then, like me you won’t be able to see Jupiter’s best feature the Great Red Spot. This persistent anticyclone storm is larger than Earth and was first documented in 1831. The oval object rotates counterclockwise, in a period of about 6 solar mass days. The last awesome feature about Jupiter is the magnetosphere which is fourteen times stronger than of Earth. This means that Jupiter has the largest aurora’s in the solar system apart from the Sun.
On July 4, 2016, spacecraft Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit after its launch in August 2011. In Greek and Roman mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. It was Jupiter’s wife, the goddess Juno, who was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature. The Juno spacecraft will also look beneath the clouds to see what the planet is up to, not seeking signs of misbehavior, but helping us to understand the planet’s structure and history (Nasa.gov, 2016).
Juno will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system (Nasa.gov, 2016).
Go check out the Junocam to get the latest updates on the Juno spacecraft.
Nasa.gov (2016). Juno Overview: Unlocking Jupiter’s Secrets. Nasa.gov. Retrieved from: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/overview/index.html
Zimmermann, K. A. (2012). Jupiter’s Moons: Facts About the Largest Jovian Moons. Space.com. Retrieved from: http://www.space.com/16452-jupiters-moons.html