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Archive for the ‘Jupiter’ Category

Tomorrow Jupiter and the Last Quarter Moon will form a striking conjunction. How close, you may ask? Here’s an illustration via NASA/JPL’s Solar System Simulator, one of my favorite online utilities. This is the Moon and Jupiter as viewed from Earth at 11:00 Universal Time on September 8, 2012, which, for example, will be 6:00 AM local time here in North America’s Central Time Zone:

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here’s the Moon slowly approaching Jupiter at 6:22 AM on September 6:

So far this month I’ve managed to photograph the Moon every morning! I don’t expect the streak to be unbroken, but I’ll do my best. Here’s the Waning gibbous Moon progressing through its phases this past week:

5:04 AM CDT September 1, 2012 (10:04 UT)


5:40 AM CDT September 2, 2012 (10:40 UT)


6:51 AM CDT September 3, 2012 (11:51 UT)


6:08 AM CDT September 4, 2012 (11:08 UT)


9:05 AM CDT September 5, 2012 (14:05 UT)


6:05 AM CDT September 6, 2012 (11:05 UT)


7:00 AM CDT September 7, 2012 (12:00 UT)

All with 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click to enlarge.

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Many must have seen the lovely, thin waxing crescent Moon this evening, as I’ve had many hits from people looking for 11-27-11 Moon photos. Alas, I have none. It was cloudy most of the day, and when it cleared off in the evening, I had just one beautiful glimpse of it minutes before moonset, through the panoramic picture window of a loved-one’s hospital room; but only a glimpse, because I was not there to gaze out the window.

Being eager to please, I’ll offer this hazy-but-passable shot of the Moon at the same illumination (11%) at 9:48 PM CDT 6-4-11 (2:48 UT 6-5-11):

Io zips around Jupiter in only 1.77 Earth day, Europa in 3.55; Ganymede orbits in 7.16 Earth days, and Callisto in 16.69. Thus Io does the most disappearing and reappearing, though they all do it from time to time:

Above: 10:15 CST 11-27-11 (4:15 UT 11-28-11). Left to Right: Ganymede, Europa, Jupiter, Callisto.
Below: Exactly one hour later at 11:15 CST, Io has popped out of Jupiter’s shadow. Left to Right: Ganymede, Europa, Io, Jupiter, Callisto.

All with 8″ reflector telescope and 25mm eyepiece.

“And now for something completely different,” just this very evening I’ve expanded my horizons to include Inner Space as well as Outer Space:

A dash of Real Salt, magnified thirty times with this old Lionel toy microscope that I’ve had for eons:

All with my usual LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

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I accomplished two observation sessions about six hours apart, and saw some fascinating lunar and jovian sights.

In their constant orbital dance, it’s not often that Jupiter’s four Galilean Moons appear to us in order of their actual distance from Jupiter, but yesterday evening they did, and moved from there to the most beautiful configuration I’ve seen yet:


Above: 7:25 PM CST 11-6-11 (1:25 UT 11-7-11). Left to Right: Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, Io, Jupiter.
Below: Six hours and two minutes later at 1:27 AM CST 11-7-11 (7:27 UT). The upper moon is Europa. The three moons in a near-straight line are (L-R) Callisto, Ganymede, Io. And of course, the “big one” is Jupiter.

Now to Earth’s Moon:

Above: 7:37 PM CST 11-6-11 (1:37 UT 11-7-11). The Moon was high in the southeastern sky.
Below: 1:23 AM CST 11-7-11 (7:23 UT). The Moon was still somewhat high in the southwestern sky. In the upper (northern) part of the terminator the crater Aristarchus has just peeked into the morning sunlight.


Above: 7:44 PM CST 11-6-11 (1:44 UT 11-7-11). I’ve become quite fascinated with the crater Gassendi, prominent in the left center of this picture, on the northern end of Mare Humorum, the “Sea of Moisture.”
Below: The same region at 1:20 AM CST 11-7-11 (7:20 UT). The advancing morning sunlight has visibly cleared the mountains at the western edge of Mare Humorum.

Below: 1:21 AM CST 11-7-11 (7:21 UT). The region of Mare Imbrium, the “Sea of Showers.” Five major features appearing here include, clockwise starting at the far left: Kepler, Aristarchus, Sinus Iridum, Plato, Copernicus.

8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Closeups with 2x Barlow. Click for larger view.

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5:31 AM CDT 10-28-11 (10:31 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera.
Left to right: Europa, Ganymede, Jupiter, Io, Callisto (far to the right, showing up somewhat faintly, but it’s there.)
At the time of this photo, Jupiter was “only” 369 million miles away (under 594 million km), the closest it will be to Earth until 2022.

As Jupiter passes opposition, it’s just beginning the season of greatest viewing convenience for people who like to view the skies in the evening just after dark. Preview of coming attraction: during March 7-18, 2012, Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets in our sky, will join together in a dazzling pair just after dark in the evening.

These days the predawn sky is beautiful. As Jupiter beamed brightly in the west, the Pleiades hung high above it, with the Hyades to their left, Orion still further to the left shining grandly in the south. Mars is currently high in the eastern sky before dawn. Anyone willing to try out my unconventional predawn viewing schedule will be richly rewarded.

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Jupiter is now coming into opposition, the time at which it’s most directly opposite the Sun in our sky, and making its closest approach to Earth. Jupiter comes into opposition about every thirteenth month, but this is the closest opposition until 2022, making it appear especially bright. Don’t miss the excellent pictures that Christopher Go has been taking, even though he’s been dealing with monsoon season in the Philippines.

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