Sky watchers in Melbourne will have noticed a very bright star in the Northern sky at night. That 'star' is in fact the planet Jupiter and it is only days from reaching opposition on Saturday 7 March 2015. Even if you are not familiar with the night sky, Jupiter’s brightness means that it is very easy to find. Jupiter will be the brightest star (-2.6 magnitude) you can see.
The term 'opposition' means that the planet Jupiter will rise as the Sun sets and then set as the Sun rises the following morning. For Jupiter, it coincides with the planets closest approach to the Earth, and means that the next few months are prime time for Jupiter watching. In fact, Jupiter is so large (approximately 1,200 Earth’s by volume) that even a reasonable pair of binoculars will resolve Jupiter as a disc plus show four of its largest ('Galilean') moons.
The Galilean moons are the four moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo Galilei around January 1610. They are by far the largest of the moons of Jupiter. They are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto and derive their names from the lovers of Zeus. However, in total there are 67 confirmed moons of Jupiter!
I took these photos from my bedroom window tonight. The first photo shows Jupiter in the upper centre of the image. For the close up of Jupiter I used a 30X optical zoom as well as an additional 30X digital zoom. A little brightness/contrast enhancement in Photoshop and voilà! The labelled image of the sky is from the free astronomy application 'Stellarium'. I have added labels for the Galilean moons in the last image.
This post is part of the Skywatch Friday meme.