Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jupiter at its Brightest

For all of you space geeks...don't overlook the fact that the planet Jupiter reaches maximum brilliance this week, on July 9th, when it makes its closest approach to Earth for all of 2008. If at sunset you look low and southeast just above the horizon for a beacon of light brighter than any star you will be able to spot Jupiter rising for an all-night transit across the southern sky. During this close approach, Jupiter makes a great target for backyard telescopes. Even with a small telescope you should be able to see the planet's cloud belts, its four largest moons, and the Great Red Spot, an anti-cyclone twice as wide as Earth. Interestingly, just a few days ago, the Great Red Spot ran over a sibling, the Little Red Spot, and may have actually destroyed the smaller storm.

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The picture above is from Amateur astronomer Tilemachos Athanasiadis sends this picture from Greece. It shows Jupiter and the Milky Way shining over the dark form of Mount Olympus, "the throne of Zeus," he points out. To highlight the Milky Way's faint star clouds alongside much brighter Jupiter, he used a Canon 400D set at ISO 1600 for a 300s guided exposure.

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