Nearby Jupiter – Astronomy for Beginners
I looked up last night at the nearly full moon and saw a very bright star nearby which must be a planet. It was Jupiter, which is currently the closest it ever gets to our own planet Earth, an event which happens around every 12 years or so. The spectacle last night was something I’ve never seen before as an amateur astronomer. Unlike a bright star, with the naked eye it was possible to make out Jupiter as a white disc in the sky, like a tiny version of the moon, rather than a twinkling point of light which is how stars appear to me. With an ordinary pair of bird watching binoculars the effect is magnified. The surface of the full moon can be seen in much greater detail, and the planet Jupiter, nearby in the southern sky is very clearly a planet. There’s a slight possibility that an uneven shape caused by rings or even one of Jupiter’s moons may have been perceived but really I think you need a more powerful binoculars or telescope for that.
Jupiter and the other large planets make excellent subjects for astronomy for beginners because they can be seen even with the naked eye, and do not need a particular clear out of town sky in order to be clearly visible. They are also interesting to track because the movement of the planets across the night sky follows a different path to that of the star constellations, in a way which brings special rare events into the picture on an irregular basis. The proximity of Jupiter can be observed over the next few nights by looking out to the South East as the full moon rises after about 10.00pm. Jupiter is brighter than any star in the sky so if it isn’t cloudy you can’t really miss it.
* Astronomy for beginners Fact:
September 21st was the date on which the day and night are exactly equally long all over the world.