Photo Credit: NASA/JPL CASSINI Space probe:
Happy New Year everyone! Have some fun tonight and please stay safe and thank you all so very much for following along with my space ramblings for another year! You guys rock!
Those with telescopes and binoculars, NOW is the time to observe the first of the gas giants and the 1st Jovian planet; Jupiter as it reaches opposition on Friday,February 6, 2015 at precisely 18:09 UTC (13:09 EST). This is your best chance to see Jupiter until it reaches opposition again on March 8, 2016 (About 400 days or 13 month cycles).
Jupiter will be primed for observing from now through March. At opposition Jupiter will be approximately 4.1 AU from earth (4 times the distance of Earth from the Sun) and will reach an apparent magnitude of -2.6 with a disk of 44.4” arcseconds in size (For example, Mars at opposition only reaches about 15” arcseconds in size and the average Full Moon is just over 2000” arcseconds). Many of you have already seen Jupiter as the year comes to a close and it’s only going to get better for the next month or so.
Opposition, in planetary terms is when a superior (outer) planet reaches a point exactly opposite the Sun from Earth’s vantage point so we see its full disk so you can call it a “Full Jupiter.” Another way to say it is Earth will be directly between the Sun and Jupiter. That pretty much places Jupiter at its closest point that it can get to the earth in its orbit. Opposition and closest points differ slightly but close enough for what we’re doing. This is the first major opposition of 2014 and hey, IT’S JUPITER; so get out there and check it out!
This year Jupiter also brings with it some rare treats! A triple Galilean moon shadow transit followed briefly by the moons themselves as well as a bunch of “Mutual Events” which are roughly a 6 year event when the moons of Jupiter eclipse and or occult each other over the course of a few months as seen from Earth. Let’s check them out briefly with data provided by Sky & Telescope (links below also).
Jan 15: Mutual Event: Observers in North America will witness Io eclipse Callisto from 12:13 to 12:39 UTC. The combined drop in magnitude will be 0.5.
Jan 17: Io and Europa create a double Galilean moon shadow transit across Jupiter’s disk. Scheduled to occur from 03:53 to 04:58 UTC (22:53 to 23:58 EST on the 16th).
Jan 19: Mutual Event: Observers in North America will witness Ganymede occult Europa from 02:31 to 02:37 UTC. The combined drop in magnitude will be 0.5.
Jan 23: Mutual Event: Observers in North America will witness Callisto eclipse Ganymede from 09:06 to 09:20 UTC. The combined drop in magnitude will be a great 1.4.
Jan 24: Io, Europa and Ganymede create a triple Galilean moon shadow transit across Jupiter’s disk. Scheduled to occur from 06:27 to 06:52 UTC (01:27 to 01:52 EST). This will be followed briefly by all three of those moons themselves passing across Jupiter’s disk briefly.
Jan 26: Mutual Event: Observers in North America will witness Ganymede occult Europa from 05:13 to 05:19 UTC. The combined drop in magnitude will be 0.5.
Jan 28: Mutual Event: Observers in North America will witness Europa eclipse Io from 06:18 to 06:27 UTC. The combined drop in magnitude will be 0.5.
Jan 29: Mutual Event: Observers in North America will witness Io occult Europa from 14:31 to 14:35 UTC. The combined drop in magnitude will be 0.6.
Any questions at all, please ask!
NASA page for this image: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/pia04866.html
Sky & Telescope 2015 Jupiter Almanac: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/a-jupiter-almanac/
Sky & Telescope Phenomena of Jupiter’s Moons 2015: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/wp-content/uploads/WebJphenTab2015.pdf
Sky & Telescope 2015 Jupiter Mutual Events page: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/sky-and-telescope-magazine/beyond-the-printed-page/mutual-events-jupiters-satellites-201415/
Institute of Celestial Mechanics: http://www.imcce.fr/phemu/
Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Calculation of Ephemerides: http://www.imcce.fr/hosted_sites/saimirror/nsszph515he.htm
Observatories list for ephemerides page above: http://www.imcce.fr/hosted_sites/saimirror/obslist.htm