Huestis: A Parade of Planets for Summer Stargazers - June is for Jupiter
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Back on May 9, Jupiter was at its closest distance to the Earth for 2018 … just over 409,000,000 miles away. Now about a month later on June 1 that distance has grown to about 416,000,00 miles. Regardless, views of this massive planet (you could fit 1,321 Earths within its volume) and his four Galilean moons are still splendid.
Once the Sun sets and evening twilight deepens bright Jupiter will be easily noticeable high above the southeastern horizon in the constellation of Libra. If you have your own telescope you can begin observing immediately. Otherwise, you will need to visit one of the local observatories listed at the end of this column during their public observing nights.
First-time telescopic views of Jupiter astound causal stargazers. They are often amazed at the wealth of detail a telescope provides. While the disk of the planet is quite impressive through even a small instrument, what most observers first notice are the small star-like dots accompanying Jupiter. These are the four largest and brightest of Jupiter’s moons, called the Galilean moons in honor of their discoverer, Galileo Galilei. On January 7, 1610, Galileo used a lens 1.5 inches in diameter with a magnification of only 20X to observe Jupiter. He observed three little stars in the planet’s vicinity. (The fourth one was either in Jupiter’s shadow, behind the planet’s disk, or in transit in front of the disk.) At first, Galileo thought they were background stars, but after careful observation, he deduced they were orbiting Jupiter.
Galileo’s telescopic work and the calculations that followed proved the Copernican Sun-centered theory (still controversial at the time) for the layout and motion of the solar system, versus the Aristotelian Earth-centered view. Jupiter and his retinue of moons was a solar system in miniature.
The Galiean satellites now have names from Greek mythology: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. When several of the moons are visible at the same time, they often appear in a straight line, parading around Jupiter in the plane of its equator. This arrangement presents many interesting phenomena for us, earth-bound astronomers, to observe.
When a moon passes in front of Jupiter and casts a shadow onto the Jovian cloud tops, it is called a shadow transit. Besides seeing the satellite’s shadow, you may also see the bright disk of the satellite traversing Jupiter’s clouds at the same time, though this event is more difficult to observe. A moon may also pass behind the planet, which is called an occultation. Jupiter’s shadow can even eclipse a satellite as well; gradually the moon will either blink out or reappear. Also, it’s fun to watch all four moons line up on one side of the planet. I love to watch Jupiter over an extended period of time during the course of one evening because the view is dynamically changing as you watch.
While you can be pleasantly surprised at the eyepiece of a telescope by any of these satellite events during a random observing session, you can use the following website to plan ahead to ensure you experience a special Galilean satellite event.
Once you’ve explored Jupiter’s moons, turn your attention to the disk of the planet. Jupiter’s stripped appearance is due to the prominent dark bands/belts and lighter zones in Jupiter's cloud tops. A six-inch telescope or larger may be needed to catch a glimpse of the Great Red Spot, a centuries-old storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Though not as red (some observers describe it as salmon colored) as it once was many years ago, it should be fairly easy to see if it has rotated into view.
Additionally, since its discovery the GRS has shrunk by 50%, and in more recent years its oval shape has become more circular. Some astronomers speculate that the storm may be dissipating. Only time will tell. Keep in mind that Jupiter rotates once in ten hours, making it possible to see the entire planet in one or two nights of observing. You can visit the following website to determine when favorable views of the Great Red spot will occur.
Use whatever optical aid you have at hand, but if you wish to marvel at the beauty of Jupiter and all it has to offer, then set aside some time to visit one of the local observatories for a splendid visual experience. During the Seagrave Observatory celebration of Astronomy Day on April 28, we observed the GRS using the society’s eight-inch Alvan Clark refractor.
Furthermore, be sure to check out brilliant Venus in the west-northwest sky after sunset all month. On the 15th a waxing crescent Moon will be below and to the right of Venus. On the night after it will be to Venus’ upper left.
I encourage you to visit one of the following local observatories for splendid views of Jupiter and other astronomical objects throughout the months to come. I will provide observing guides to Saturn and Mars in the upcoming months. Seagrave Memorial Observatory in North Scituate is open every clear Saturday night. Ladd Observatory in Providence is open every Tuesday night. The Margaret M. Jacoby Observatory at the CCRI Knight Campus in Warwick is open every clear Thursday night. Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown is open every clear Friday night. Check the respective websites for any schedule update before venturing out for a visit.
And finally, the summer solstice occurs at 6:07 am EDT on the 21st. Summer begins in the northern hemisphere.
May all your skies be cloud free.
Related Slideshow: 25 Things to Look Forward to in New England This Summer - 2018
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival takes place from June 1 to June 10 in downtown Burlington, Vermont.
This 10 day celebration features four stages with free live music from Leslie Odom Jr. and more. The festival also will feature local food and much more.
For more information, click here.
Taking a Cruise on a Windjammer
Head to Maine and sleep aboard a National Landmark, the Maine Windjammer Fleet.
Go on a three, four or six-day cruise and get closer than ever before to wildlife like whales, eagles, and porpoises while you see some of the best coastal scenery that North America has to offer.
After a successful first festival, the PVDFest returns to Providence for the third year and will take place from June 7 to June 10.
The festival will bring in art, music, performances and more from all over the United States and the world for the free outdoor festival.
Catching a Worcester Bravehearts Game
Year after year, the Worcester Bravehearts are one of the best baseball teams in New England.
They bring in some of the best college talent from across the region to compete for the Futures League Championship.
Don't miss a game.
Visiting Cape Playhouse Theatre
Taking a ride to Cape Cod and visit the oldest summer theatre in the country, Cape Playhouse. Cape Playhouse was first opened in 1927 by Raymond Moore.
The theatre has been home to some of the biggest stars to ever grace a stage like Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart amongst others.
Enjoying the South County Hot Air Balloon Fest
There is nothing quite like the Hot Air Ballon Fest. This is the place to enjoy glowing hot air balloons, crafts, music, food, fishing, carnival rides, fireworks, and more.
The festival will be held from July 20-22 on the URI athletic fields.
Participating in the Worcester World Cup 2018
The 2017 Worcester World Cup is set to take place from Friday, August 10 to Sunday, August 12.
The Worcester World Cup is more than a soccer tournament. It's a celebration of Worcester and a safe, friendly family event that people look forward to all year.
Newport Jazz Festival
The 2018 festival is set to take place from Friday, August 3 to Sunday, August 5.
The festival will show off over 50 individual jazz ensembles on four stages including performances at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Fort Adams State Park.
Seeing a Movie at the Rustic Drive-In
Look forward to Calling up your friends, pack a picnic, and sit in your car as feature films are projected on giant outdoor screens.
The audio plays right through your radio, so be sure to turn the volume up high as you snack on your candy and popcorn.
Zip Lining in the Berkshires
Looking for something new and exciting? Head to the Berkshires and get yourself on a zip line, maybe even do a canopy tour.
There are three different tour options, starting with the base area tour which lasts an hour or the Moutain Top or Valley Jump tour which takes three hours. Both of those are sure to shoot some adrenaline into your day.
The Little League World Series
While the Little League World Series does not take place in New England, the series is arguably the marquee sporting event of the summer.
There will be a New England team in it this year and therefore, the Little League World Series is always something to look forward to
Catching a PawSox Game at McCoy
Nothing says summer time like sitting at McCoy Stadium and watching a Pawtucket Red Sox game.
While the PawSox are already in action, the weather is getting warmer and it will be much more comfortable to go out to a game.
Billy Joel at Fenway Park
For the 5th consecutive year, rock and roll legend Billy Joel will play Fenway Park.
Billy Joel released his first hit song, arguably still his biggest hit, Piano Man in 1973 and since then has become the 6th best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States.
Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and then the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
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