Courtesy Mark RyanOur Moon and the planet Jupiter appear to be in a close dance together in the sky tonight. The two celestial bodies are just a couple Moon-widths from each other. Some viewers in South America could see an occultation with Jupiter disappearing behind the Moon. I ventured out to photograph the waltz despite major sub-zero temperatures here in Minnesota.
Courtesy NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope FacilityAn amateur astronomer in Australia has discovered a scar on the planet Jupiter indicating a recent collision between the planet and a comet or asteroid. Anthony Wesley noticed the new scar had appeared on the planet’s surface sometime between the hours of 5 a.m and 11 a.m (CDT) on the morning of July 20, 2009. NASA scientists used the agency’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawaii to confirm the impact. This new collision comes practically fifteen years to the day since the spectacular Levy-Shoemaker comet collided with Jupiter in 1994.
"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event,” said Glenn Orton, a JPL scientist.
“We couldn't have planned it better."
Go here to read more about it.
UPDATE 7-24-09: I've added this new Hubble photo of Jupiter impact site via Space.com
Courtesy NASA, ESA, H. Hamel (Space Science Institute, and the Jupiter Impact Team.
Courtesy Mark RyanWhen I was a kid I remember my dad would like to point out that the word "syzygy" was one of very few multi-syllabic words that didn't contain any of the "normal" vowels.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe definition in an astronomical sense is when three or more celestial bodies in the same gravitational system line up in essentially a straight line. One example would be the Sun, Moon, and Earth during an eclipse. Another may be the phenomenon that was visible in the western sky just after dusk today.
Courtesy Makr RyanHere are four photographs I shot of the alignment of the Moon with the planets Jupiter and Venus. I don't know if the celestial alignment is technically a syzgy but the word has stuck with me and I'm still waiting to use it in a game of Scrabble.
Courtesy Mark RyanPLEASE NOTE: From my vantage point the event was happening right in a flight path for the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport so aircraft kept flying through the frame. That's what all the streaks and extra lights in the photos are. The exposures were long, ranging between 6 and 15 seconds, and I used a timer so as not to shake the camera during each exposure. Timing the shutter with the aircraft was tricky but I got a few good ones.
Two of the brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, appear very close together tonight. Tomorrow night (Dec 1) they will be joined by the crescent moon around 6 pm (CDT) to make an "unhappy face".
"This is set to be the best planetary gathering of the year, simply because it involves three of the brightest objects in the sky after the sun," said Geza Gyuk, director of astronomy at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. National Geographic.
Courtesy NASAY’all know what “fratricide” is? It’s when a brother kills a brother. Or when a sister kills her brother. Or when a sister and a brother kill their brother. Any combination, really, involving a brother getting iced.
Well, it has happened on Jupiter. A little brother has been torn apart by his giant siblings. And by giant, I mean many times the size of earth.
The Great Red Spot is a huge hurricane-like storm on the surface of Jupiter. The storm has been spinning for several hundred years, and has a diameter about three times that of Earth. Also, it’s red.
The spot happens to have a couple of little brothers, too, named Red Spot Jr. (or Oval Ba, if you can’t get your head around having a little brother that’s your “Jr.”) and the Little Red Spot. Or, I should say, it had a couple of little brothers. Now it has a little brother, and some spare brother chunks. You see, Great Red Spot, and Red Spot Jr. tore Little Red Spot to shreds last week.
Officials are still baffled as to the motive, but what we know is this: LRS was strolling innocently through its neighborhood of Jupiter when it was ambushed from either side by GRS and RSJ. No weapons are thought to have been involved, ironically making the crime that much more brutal—the larger storms ripped their little brother apart with their own stormy hands, and when GRS and RSJ ran off, all that was left of LRS were sad little shreds.
The proximity of the incident has complicated investigation, to say the least, but I have my own theories. Red Spot Junior, as it happens, only recently earned its title—it was not until only two years ago that it actually turned red. I think that RSJ may have been long overdue to prove itself as a true red spot. Both intimidated and protected by its larger brother, RSJ was content to allow GRS to be the planet’s muscle. Over the months, however, I guess that RSJ’s desire to prove itself intensified, or that GRS tired of doing its little brother’s dirty work. Either way, the two larger spots turned their sites towards their small brother, always the “simplest” of the three. I think it’s very likely that GRS provided cover and just watched while RSJ did the butcher’s work, but the blood doesn’t stand out on its recently acquired coloring.
The red color of the spots, although no doubt symbolic of their bloodthirsty hearts, is not entirely understood. It’s thought that the color may come from material sucked from deep in the planet as the storms get stronger. Phosphorus-containing molecules, for instance would turn red when exposed to sunlight on the planet’s surface.
Astronomers the world over are reeling from the violent act.
Courtesy M. Wong and I. de Pater (University of California, Berkeley)New images from the Hubble Telescope show that the Giant Planet has picked up a couple more red spots, smaller but very near to the Great Red Spot.
Images taken earlier this month discovered the third red spot on the planet, which has been nicknamed “Baby spot.” Red Spot, Jr., was discovered in spring 2006. The Great Red Spot, which is a raging storm about the same size as our Earth, has been churning in Jupiter’s atmosphere for 200 to 350 years.
“Baby Spot” had been a white storm prior to taking on its reddish appearance. Scientists believe the red color come from clouds reacting to solar ultraviolet radiation.
Why is Jupiter getting a surge of extra red spots? Researchers think that it has to do with climate changes on the planet. In 2004 a California astronomer predicted that the planet was moving into a phase of warming temperatures that would destabilize its atmosphere.
“Baby Spot” is on a collision course with the Great Red Spot and could be gobbled up by it later this summer or bounced into a different location on the planet.
Not our moon, but Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Scientists are planning new missions to explore Europa, which they now believe contains a water-filled ocean, and possibly life.
The Cassini Huygens mission to Saturn just passed its ten year mark. It blasted off from Earth on Oct 15, 1997. I hooked up my computer to the internet a month later, and have been enjoying photos from it ever since. Last year for Paul McCartney's 64th birthday, sixty-four images from Cassini were put together into a poster and a movie.
Cassini flew by Jupiter on the way to Saturn . Cassini approached Saturn in mid-2004. One of my favorite photos is titled, The Dragon Storm. You can click through all of the Cassini photos by starting on this Cassini Imaging Diary page.
The term "Huygens" refers to a probe attached to the Cassini craft. On Christmas Day, 2004 it separated itself and landed on Saturn's moon, Titan (click here to access videos and photos).
If you haven't been following this exciting mission, you have ten years of catching up available.
At the Science Museum of Minnesota you can ask our featured Scientist on the Spot a question either using a computer interface or the old fashioned way – with a paper and pencil. Some of the handwritten questions veer a little off topic. But they are still good questions, and deserve answers. So here’s a question that was a little off topic for Noelle Beckman: “Can you tell me about Jupiter?”. Noelle is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who studies how animals influence the make-up of tropical forests. So, I’ll take this one.
Jupiter is the largest of the eight planets in our solar system (remember, poor Pluto is no longer considered a planet). Jupiter is a gas giant, meaning it is primarily made up of hydrogen (90%) and helium (10%) gases. Jupiter probably has a rocky or metallic core, though we don’t know that for certain.
Jupiter is huge – really, tremendously big. Not as big as the Sun, but bigger than all the planets (even including Pluto) combined.
When you look at the picture of Jupiter above, you can see that Jupiter’s atmosphere is banded – this banding is typical of gas giants (see pictures of the other gas giants in our solar system, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, to see similar banding). The bands are the result of extremely fast winds (more than 400 miles per hour) that are blowing in opposite directions for each adjacent band. The interaction of these bands result in storms – and one of Jupiter’s storms, called the Great Red Spot, has been known to exist since the seventeenth century.
Several NASA spacecraft have visited Jupiter, including Pioneers 10 & 11, Voyagers 1& 2, Galileo, New Horizons, Cassini-Huygens (on its way to Saturn), Ulysses (which used Jupiter in gravity-assist maneuver) – and probably others I was not able to dig up.
What else can I tell you? The comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter in 1994. You can see Jupiter in the night sky right now (in the southern sky during twilight and lower in the southwest after dark). Jupiter was named after the Roman god, Jupiter, who was very similar to Zeus in the Greek pantheon. In Pompeii there was a temple to Jupiter at the north end of the forum. Jupiter has faint planetary rings, like Saturn.
I hope this answers this person’s question. See, I can tell you about Jupiter!