Jupiter

If you look into the night sky over the next few months you may notice a very bright star, so bright that it outshines everything in the sky (Apart from the moon) that bright object is a planet. And what a planet it is.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar system the large red spot in the above photo is a swirling violent storm that has existed for centuries, it is so large that our planet could fit into it 2 or three times. Small wonder that it is known as the “king of the planets”

Jupiter has been known to us since antiquity the ancient Chinese were aware of it. The Chinese astronomer Gan De wrote the first detailed accounts of the planet and it is alleged that he recorded the existence of another object next to it (probably Ganymede.) Because the moons are quite bright and a small telescope will reveal them, it is possible to view the moons with the naked eye. Simply block the glare of the planet behind a building or a tree as the story goes.

Of course the most famous person to study Jupiter was the son of a musician, a man by the name of Galileo Galilei. Galileo was born February 15th 1564. He was a pious Roman Catholic, educated in a monastery and seriously considering a career in the clergy instead studied Mathematics. A keen astronomer he refined the plans for the first telescope and one night in 1610 looked to the giant planet. Galileo saw “three fixed stars, totally invisible by their smallness” further observations showed that these stars moved independently to the other stars, one night one was missing. From this Galileo deduced that these weren’t stars, but other celestial bodies orbiting Jupiter. The four moons he discovered were Io, Europe, Callisto and Ganymede.

Through a modest telescope or even binoculars you should be able to make out the large disk of Jupiter and the 4 moons, if you’re immune to the cold you can watch them move slowly around the giant planet.

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