What's Up - March 2016
Jupiter, its moons and moon shadows.
Jane Houston Jones: What's Up for March. Jupiter, its moons and moon shadows.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Jupiter dominates the evening sky this month, rising at sunset and setting at dawn. On March 8th Jupiter reaches what is called 'opposition.' Imagine that Jupiter and the sun are on opposite ends of a straight line with Earth in between. This brings Jupiter its closest to Earth, so it shines brighter and appears larger in telescopes.
On the nights of March 14th and 15th, March 21st and 22nd and March 29th two of Jupiter's moons will cross the planet's disk. When the planet is at opposition and the sun shines on Jupiter's moons, we can see the moons' shadows crossing the planet. There are actually 11 of these double shadow transits in March.
The next 6 months will be awesome times for you to image Jupiter when it's highest in the sky-near midnight now and a little earlier each night through the late summer. Even through the smallest telescopes or binoculars you should be able to see the two prominent belts on each side of Jupiter's equator, the four Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and with some difficulty Jupiter's Red Spot, when it's facing Earth.
NASA's Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4th of this year and go into orbit around the giant planet. Right now the Juno mission science team is actively seeking amateur and professional images of the planet. These images are uploaded to a Juno website, and the public is invited to discuss points of interest in Jupiter's atmosphere. Locations will later be voted on. The favorites will be targets for JunoCam, the spacecraft's imaging camera. Once JunoCam has taken the images, they'll be posted online. Imaging participants can then process these raw mission images and re-upload them for others to view.
You can find out all about JunoCam at: www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam
And you can learn about all of NASA's missions, including Juno, at: www.nasa.gov
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.