The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, reaches maximum brightness the night of October 28. On this date, the planet lies opposite the Sun from Earth in our sky — this is called opposition. Jupiter will rise at sunset, appear highest around local midnight, and set as the Sun rises. The king of planets will glow at magnitude −2.9, far brighter than any other point of light in the sky. The gas giant currently lies in Aries the Ram and is about 100 times more brilliant than the brightest star in that constellation. You’ll be able to spot its dark equatorial cloud belts and even its four major moons, which align with Jupiter’s equator. The planet’s South Equatorial Belt returned in November 2010 after it mysteriously faded away for about six months.At opposition, the planet’s disk will span 49.7" across its equator but 46.5" through the poles. This difference is because the planet is gaseous and spins rapidly, thus squashing its shape.
Fast facts about Jupiter
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. More than 1,300 Earths could fit inside it, and all the other planets together make up only about 70 percent of Jupiter’s volume.
It takes Jupiter about 12 years to orbit the Sun once, but only about 10 hours to rotate completely, making it the fastest-spinning of all the solar system’s planets.
Jupiter rotates so rapidly that its polar diameter, 83,082 miles (133,708 kilometers), is only 93 percent of its equatorial diameter, 88,846 miles (142,984 km).
Jupiter reflects 52 percent of the sunlight falling on it, more than any other planet except Venus (65 percent).
Jupiter’s four large moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto — are easily visible through small telescopes. Io takes less than two days to orbit its plamet, so its relative position visibly changes in an hour or so — less when it appears close to Jupiter.
Our line of sight lies in the plane of the jovian moons’ orbits, so we see occultations (when a moon moves behind Jupiter), eclipses (when Jupiter’s shadow falls on a moon), and transits (when a moon passes in front of Jupiter) at various times. Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the solar system’s largest satellite, with a diameter of nearly 3,300 miles (5,300 km), which is greater than that of Mercury
Jupiter is at opposition tonight, opposite the Sun as seen from Earth. This an unusually close opposition of Jupiter, one of the closest in its 12-year cycle.
I counted 3 moons visible and the bands were bright and clear on the surface. There was a black shadow, mid way on the second band. This was from the Io, just completing transit.
After 11pm I put the bright planet and 4 moons in the FOV.
I swung the scope over to Andromeda and spotted the Galaxy, floating where I left it the last time I captured it in my FOV. Left the scope idle, did not make it back out, this crisp, cold night.
November, week one highlights:
Look for Saturn and Spica low in the dawn sky
Saturday night the crescent Moon is higher and easier to spot now after sunset. Its round side points to the lower right, toward very low Venus and Mercury.
Sunday the waxing crescent Moon is 4 days old. It's a great time to explore the Moon with binoculars or a small telescope
Monday night, Halloween evening finds the crescent Moon lowering in the southwest and bright Jupiter rising higher in the east. Perfect for setting up your telescope in the driveway and giving looks to visiting trick-or-treaters!
The First-quarter Moon is Wednesday, (exact at 12:38 p.m.). The half-lit Moon stands high in the south at sunset. As the stars come out, the Moon reveals itself to be above the dim star-pattern of Capricornus.
Look lower left of the Moon Thursday evening, by two or three fist-widths at arm's length, for Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star.
Next week end, Daylight-saving time ends (for most of North America) at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Clocks "fall back" an hour.
News from the Net:
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NASA Issues Report On Commercial Crew as SpaceX’s CEO Testifies About SpaceX’s Progress
Science Fiction No More: Humans and Robots to Explore Space Together
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Astrophoto: Mu Cephei by Jan Inge Berentsen Anvik
Astronomy Without A Telescope – Dark Matter Science