Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Zeus is close

Get out your optical aids and get under the night sky. From

...JUPITER AT ITS BRIGHTEST: Jupiter reaches maximum brilliance this week, on July 9th, when it makes its closest approach to Earth for all of 2008. At sunset, look low and southeast for a beacon of light brighter than any star. That is Jupiter rising for an all-night transit across the southern sky. During this time of closest approach, Jupiter makes a wonderful target for backyard telescopes. Even small telescopes reveal the planet's cloud belts, its four largest moons, and the Great Red Spot, an anti-cyclone twice as wide as Earth. Just a few days ago, the Great Red Spot ran over a sibling, the Little Red Spot, and may have destroyed the smaller storm. Amateur images of the collision are featured on today's edition of .

I'm what's called a 'planetary' amateur astronomer. I love gazing at the planets. Jupiter is my favorite. Even half-way decent binoculars will reveal its moons. Even if you have only a low-end telescope, Jupiter's brightness and size can overcome your instrument's limitations. Not only will you see the moons, but you should be able to make-out banding on the planets surface. A moderate instrument will reveal a wealth of detail. Remember that even if you don't have a telescope or binoculars, you do have some of the best optical aids ever evolved--your eyeballs. To the unaided eye, bright Jupiter is a wonder to behold.

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