Label: Jupiter

November 9, 2011

  Did you notice a very bright, silvery "star" just to the left of the moon last night? You were looking at Jupiter. This gas giant, the largest planet in our solar system, appears to be larger and brighter in the sky than it has since 1999 (last century!), and it won’t look this big and bright again until 2023.


It will be an equally spectacular sight all night tonight, with Jupiter on the right side of the moon. If you have binoculars, you will also be able see Jupiter’s four moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa).

We will continue to be able to observe Jupiter all the way until April, although its light will gradually become fainter and it will be visible for a shorter time each night. Then, its orbit will carry it into the glare of the sun, and it will be awhile before we can spot Jupiter again from Earth.

I love standing out in the fresh air, tilting my head back and looking at the stars….don’t you? 

This sky map shows how Jupiter and the moon appeared in the night sky on Nov. 8, 2011. 

CREDIT: Starry Night Software  

 Read more about the largest planet in our Solar System in Seymour Simon’s DESTINATION: JUPITER.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: space, Astronomy, space books, moon, Jupiter, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 11, 2010

        Jupiter Before and After

In case you didn’t notice, Jupiter’s great South Equatorial Belt (SEB) disappeared this year!

Don’t worry, though. The huge, gassy planet is going to be fine. That belt (which we see as a dark brown stripe but is actually a mass of dark clouds) has disappeared before.

When it has returned in the past, astronomers have described an amazing sight….and it appears that is starting to happen again. A high energy, white plume is pushing through the clouds on Jupiter, and this probably means that the stripe is coming back.

Since most of us don’t have high-powered telescopes, we can rely on the people at, who love to record these things. There will be updates and plenty of images on their website, so keep checking in the coming weeks.

But in the meantime you can see Jupiter in the night sky. Look up overhead at night. Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon this month. You can’t miss it. Just look up at night and look for the brightest "star" (really a planet and really Jupiter). 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Jupiter, Space   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 20, 2010

I can just imagine how excited I would have been for this event when I was a young kid and a member of the Junior Astronomy Club at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Wait a second there, young Seymour   I’m STILL excited about it! Here’s what’s going on this evening: Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system, will be overhead in the night sky at midnight, shining brighter than everything except the Moon.

Jupiter and Earth each revolve around the sun in their respective orbits. Earth takes 365 days, one Earth year, to make one revolution.  It takes Jupiter nearly 12 Earth years, 4330 Earth days, to make one revolution around the sun. That means that the two planets are rarely very near each other in their orbits. But not tonight. Earth and Jupiter are the closest together in space that they will be for the 12 years, until 2022.

If you look through even a small telescope or a pair of high-magnification binoculars you should see Jupiter’s four big moons (called the Galilean moons because of their discovery in 1610 by the great scientist Galileo).  Galileo used a small telescope that is about 20x magnification.The four moons he discovered are name Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

 Here’s a photo of Jupiter and the shadow of Io on the surface of the planet. This was taken by Anthony Wesley of Australia (he used a much higher magnification, so you won’t be able to see Jupiter quite like this).  


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Astronomy, planets, Jupiter, Sky Watching   •  Permalink (link to this article)

June 10, 2010

Last week something crashed into Jupiter and it was caught on camera - by two amateur astronomers!  Anthony Wesley of Australia and Christopher Go of the Philippines each recorded an impact event on Jupiter.


 This is Anthony Wesley’s photograph, and if you click on this link, you can see a short video that Christopher Go made using his photographs of the event. The strike occurred at 20:31 UT* on June 3rd and produced a bright flash of light in Jupiter’s clouds. No one knows what crashed into Jupiter - it was probably an asteroid or a comet. In either case, a charcoal-colored circle will probably develop around the debris field; that’s what has happened after previous Jupiter impacts. Astronomers are watching to see what happens next!

 * Astronomers often mark events in UT, which stands for Universal Time. It is the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. GMT is five hours ahead of the East Coast of the US and eight hours ahead of the West Coast. UT is almost always uses military time, or the 24-hour clock. So, 20:31 is what we would call 8:31 pm.

Photo credit: Anthony Wesley, Broken Hill Australia



Posted by: Liz Nealon

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July 21, 2009

Comet may have hit Jupiter - Rare Photographs

There are news reports today that a comet slammed into the planet Jupiter on Monday. Scientists have drawn this conclusion based on  images captured by NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Hawaii.

This is not the first time this has happened. In my book, DESTINATION JUPITER,

there is a a series of photographs showing a comet (named Shoemaker-Levy 9)  slamming into the surface of Jupiter in July, 1994. Fifteen years later, astronomers have photographed what may have been another comet crashing into the planet. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and has a strong gravitational pull. That’s one of the reasons Jupiter has captured so many comets and moons that circle around it.  Scientists are always excited when they are able to photograph such an impact. It tells them much about the composition of the planet.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space books, Solar System, planets, Jupiter   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 30, 2009

Nearly 400 years ago, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei constructed a tiny   astronomical telescope and looked at the night sky. He peered at the planet Jupiter, then a strange and mysterious object. Galileo discovered three faint dots around the planet and wondered what they might be.

Over the following year, Galileo observed Jupiter and these tiny pin-pricks of light. He discovered a fourth and saw that they were in motion around Jupiter. Could they be moons, other worlds in their own right? Galileo had discovered the first satellites circling around a planet other than our own. In future years they were named Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. They are now known as the Galilean Satellites, in honour of the great scientist.

Galileo realized that these four moons were orbiting Jupiter. His observations cast doubt on the accepted view (at that time) that the Earth was the center of the Universe. Years later,  the Galilean moons would be used by science to support Copernicus’s theory of a heliocentric, sun-centered universe, which we now know is much closer to the truth.

With a small telescope or a pair of binoculars, you too can see Jupiter and its moons, much as Galileo did nearly 400 years ago. On a crisp and cloudless night, find a safe and dark location to look to the night sky. The best places to look at the sky are away from street lights. The best observing time for Jupiter this year is in the summer. Jupiter is bright during the month of August, making this a good time to view its moons.

Focus your telescope or binoculars on Jupiter and try to pick out the dots of light on either side. These are the moons, just as Galileo saw them! You can even track their positions over consecutive nights, as he did. Even if you don’t observe Jupiter and the Galilean moons during 2009, it’s still worth looking up on a starry night and remembering how, nearly 400 years ago, history was made by Galileo doing the same thing. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: space books, planets, Jupiter   •  Permalink (link to this article)