Tag Archives: Jupiter

The Return of Jupiter and Saturn to the Evening Sky

Jupiter

    Quite a few months have passed since the local observatories have had the opportunity to provide detailed images of some of our planetary companions in the solar system. When weather conditions have allowed, the Moon has been a good substitute. When the Moon has not been available, telescope operators have turned to double stars and faint fuzzies like star clusters, galaxies and nebulae. However, these celestial objects don’t often elicit the wow factor that planetary viewing can do. Add some high thin haze, atmospheric turbulence, a little bit of moisture and light pollution, and it has been a challenge to provide decent views of the heavens. Our observing opportunities have now greatly improved.

    While amateur astronomers have been observing Jupiter and Saturn during hours when most people are in REM dreamland, from now through November telescopes throughout Rhode Island will focus on exquisite views of these two gas giant worlds and all their glory. All I can say is, “It’s about time!!” This month’s column will provide a brief observing guide to Jupiter. Next month I will feature Saturn.

    Back on June 10 Jupiter reached opposition. That means it rose as the Sun was setting. This date was also the date of Jupiter’s closest approach to the Earth for this year—about 397,850,855 miles. By July 1 this distance will have increased to 403,576,313 miles as the Earth pulls out ahead of Jupiter in our respective orbits. Fortunately, views of  the Jovian system do not suffer dramatically from rapidly increasing distance.

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Summer Stargazing

Summer Solstice

    As we approach the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, this year on June 21 at 11:54 a.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), here in Rhode Island many folks revel in the extra daylight hours, especially in the evening. Astronomers are not among those individuals because our skies do not get fully dark until about 10 p.m., and dawn’s early light starts around 4 a.m. That leaves little time to explore the universe with telescopes and cameras to capture the beauty of the heavens. Then as the summer months continue, we must contend with high humidity and pesky mosquitoes.

    However, there are a couple of planets we will welcome back to the evening sky over the course of this summer. They are Jupiter and Saturn. These distant worlds reveal much detail in the telescopes at the local observatories.

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