Friday, 31 March 2017


I know that astrologists believe that Jupiter's in Libra right now but, sorry guys, it's actually right above Spica, Virgo's most prominent star. You should look up to the sky a bit more often... :-)

Jupiter's the biggest planet of our solar system, only preceded in brightness by Venus from Earth's point of view, if you don't count the Sun and the Moon. Its mass is two and a half times that of all the other planets combined and over 1.300 Earths could fit in it. Jupiter's gravitational pull's so strong that it manages to make the Sun wobble! In fact, you could describe this giant planet as a failed star because it emits more energy than it receives. And yet, our Sun, the tiny star that it is, still dwarves it. 

Jupiter's not a rocky planet like Earth but it's a big ball of gas. In case you'd like to visit it, be prepared for a storm because on Jupiter the wind velocity exceeds 600km/h, that's TWICE the wind speed of a tornado! These incredible winds create the well-known creamy and brown stripes that you can already see through a small telescope. Another famous feature is of course the great red spot that appeared very orangy in my binoscope. This is a gigantic hurricane that could easily contain three Earths! Imagine that! 

Jupiter has no less than 67 known moons, the four biggest of which had already been identified by Galilei, hence "Galilean moons". The biggest's called Ganymede and you can see it as the second moon from the planet on my sketch. Ganymede's also the biggest moon in our entire solar system and overthrows even Mercury in size. Closer to the planet we find Io, a moon that's distorted so much by Jupiter's powerful tidal forces that its surface's mashed into one big, constant volcano. On the edge of the field of view you can just see Europa, a very unusual moon that hides a water ocean under it's icy crust. Analysis of the brownish substance we can see on its surface suggests that this ocean may contain very complex molecules, if not foster life itself. Callisto, the fourth of the bright moons, is also the most distant one and as such didn't appear in this highly magnified field of view.  

April's the ideal month to observe Jupiter since it will be closest to Earth. So grab your binoculars or telescopes and enjoy the ever-changing spectacle that this fast-rotating planet has on offer. 

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