Jupiter is visible! Well, at night it is. It’s been hovering right over Scorpius, low in the southwestern sky. This is quite exciting for me because it is the first time that I have known a patch of the night sky well enough to recognize that one “star” didn’t belong. Naturally, I was filled with nerdy excitement and had to look online to figure out what exactly I’d seen. Jupiter was my best guess, and by Jove, I was right. This nifty Planet Finder helped me confirm it.
Jupiter is, Earth notwithstanding, the most interesting planet…in my humble opinion. I admit to some bias because I recall sitting on a sofa with my mom, maybe six or seven years old, looking at a picture of the Great Red Spot in a dusty tome of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. This feature made Jupiter her favorite planet. Imagine a storm, large enough to engulf three Earths, that has raged for well over three hundred years if seventeenth century scientists Robert Hooke and Giovanni Cassini are to be
Apart from the turbulent atmosphere, Jupiter has a pretty sweet magnetosphere. Particles from the solar wind, the volcanic eruptions from the moons, and Jupiter’s own atmosphere get trapped into the magnetic field generated by eddie currents in the metallic layer of liquid hydrogen (where the electrons can move freely) in Jupiter’s core. The volcanic moons like Io, Ganymede, and Europa move through the magnetosphere, creating a spectacular aurora.
If you get a chance to visit an observatory while Jupiter is out, go for it. You will probably be able to see the lines on the planet’s surface and maybe even the Great Red Spot.
Anyway, I encourage y’all to check it out. Personally, I’m going to get myself a little telescope. While I can’t afford one fancy enough to see details of the planet’s surface, perhaps I can catch a glimpse of the Galilean moons!
Find an observatory near you! If nothing comes up for your city, just enter your state.
All from NASA through Wikipedia.