Tag Archives: Jupiter

Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of June 22

Is it live, or is it Memorex? Two of the top local astronomy events of the week are on tape with real-time discussion, while we can look up in the sky any night and watch the two brightest planets draw ever closer to each other.

Science on Screen

Hillary Stephens

Hillary Stephens of the Pierce College Science Dome.

Though we had not heard of this series before, Science on Screen returns to the Grand Cinema in Tacoma at 6:45 this evening, June 22. The evening will include a viewing of the 2011 science fiction film Another Earth, in which a duplicate of our planet is discovered within the solar system, and a discussion titled, “Is Anyone Out There?” The discussion leader will be Hillary Stephens, director of the Pierce College Science Dome planetarium.

The concept of Science on Screen was started by the Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston. The program creatively pairs films with lively introduction lessons by scientists. It returns to Tacoma and Pierce County for a second year thanks to a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation.

Astronomy on Tap

cosmosontapAstronomy on Tap Seattle returns to Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company in Ballard at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 24. This time the topic will be Cosmos on tap, as attendees will view episode number one of the original Cosmos series featuring Carl Sagan. Graduate students in astronomy at the University of Washington are the presenters of Astronomy on Tap. This will be their fourth event since launching this spring, and it’s always fun and informative.

A guest speaker will be on hand Wednesday to introduce the show, lead a Q&A, and discuss what has changed since Sagan created this groundbreaking series. Also promised: Cosmos trivia, Cosmos bingo, prizes, and fun. Astronomy and beer; you can’t beat it! It’s free, but please RSVP so they know how many to expect.

Venus and Jupiter draw closer

The two beacons of the twilight sky, Jupiter and Venus, continue to draw closer and closer together in the west each day as dusk settles in. The Moon joined the dance the last several nights, but now it’s just the two brightest planets doing their little dance. They’ll appear barely over two degrees apart by Friday, and they’ll be at their closest next Tuesday, June 30, when they’ll be just a third of a degree apart and will easily fit into the low-power field of view of a telescope.

Check Sky & Telescope‘s “This Week’s Sky” feature for more observing highlights, and bookmark the Seattle Astronomy calendar to keep up on local astro events.

Checking out JupiterMoons

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the Seattle area and the evening began mild and clear, so I decided to take a break from some work tasks, drag the telescope out to the deck, and have a few quick looks at Jupiter. It was also my first time to give a test drive to the new “JupiterMoons” iPhone app that I purchased from Sky & Telescope a couple of weeks ago.

Jupiter's Moons from Sky & Telescope

The “Jupiter’s Moon” app for iPhone from Sky & Telescope magazine shows you at a glance which of the planet’s Galilean satellites is which, and also includes times for the day’s events involving the moons and the Great Red Spot.

JupiterMoons doesn’t give away any secrets. You can get the same information from your favorite astronomy magazine or software package. In fact, S&T has Javascript utilities on its website that do the same things. But there are three advantages to the app that I can think of. First, my iPhone is almost always in my pocket, so whenever I wonder what’s up with Jupiter the answer is handy. Second, on the app what you see is what you get. I always find those squiggly charts of Jupiter’s Galilean moons difficult to interpret, and usually have to take off my shoes to translate Universal Time into Pacific Standard. When you fire up JupiterMoons you get a snapshot of which moons are where right now and where you are. You can also look up times past and future. The view can be flipped or inverted to match the view in the gear with which you’re observing. Finally, the app is easy to read at night. There’s even a night mode that runs it in red light—not that we’re getting much in the way of night vision in our city backyards, but the feature may be important if you have a good, dark observing site.

JupiterMoons iconA couple of other features are useful. Tap on the “events” button and you get a listing of the current day’s transits, eclipses, and occultations of the moons and their shadows, and transit times for the Great Red Spot as well. The “learn more” tab leads the user to some quick facts about Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Alas, there were no events going on during the short time I had for observing yesterday, save for the GRS being in view. But I was able to identify the moons, and JupiterMoons would have let me know if there was a double shadow transit or some other notable event coming up later in the night.

JupiterMoons is a great little app to enhance your impromptu viewing sessions. At $3 it’s a steal. It’s available for iPhone and iPad from the iTunes store.

Enjoying Jupiter through new eyes

After a couple of weeks of wild weather, including snow, ice storms, high wind, and heavy rain, the greater Seattle area is enjoying something most unusual: a clear, calm winter night.


Jupiter doesn't look quite like this through my backyard telescope, but a Tele Vue Radian eyepiece is giving better views than I've ever had before. Cassini snapped this one on its way to Saturn in 2000. Photo: NASA.

The timing is both right on and a bit off for astronomy buffs in the area. At nightfall the Moon was pleasantly centered between Venus and Jupiter, making for a picture postcard view. However several area astronomy clubs have their monthly public star parties scheduled for Saturday evening, and the forecast is for the clouds to move back in after our brief respite from precipitation.

I took advantage of the clear night to haul my telescope out of the basement and take a look. I had a peek at the gibbous Venus, and looked at the crescent Moon for a bit. But I have been watching Jupiter for most of the evening. I find the clockwork of old Jove’s moons endlessly fascinating. Io was in transit across the giant planet’s disk between about 7 p.m. and 9:15. Io’s shadow is following about an hour and 15 minutes behind, and will complete its transit of Jupiter at around 10:30.

I’ve got to throw in a plug for a relatively new eyepiece in my case. Last year right after Christmas I used some gift cash (thanks, Mom!) to buy a 10mm Tele Vue Radian. Using it to look at Jupiter this evening made me feel as though the scales had fallen from my eyes and I was seeing the planet for the first time!

TeleVue Delos

I have an 8-inch “Intelliscope” from Orion, and it’s pretty much as it came out of the box (though my aching neck convinced me to replace the straight-through finderscope with a right-angle model, and I added a Telrad finder, which is pretty useless from my West Seattle backyard observing location, given the few bright objects that can be seen through the thing.) My high-power eyepiece had always been the 10mm Sirius Plossl that came with the scope. It’s OK, but has minimal eye relief. I typically found that I got much better views from a 17mm Plossl and a 2x Barlow.

Then I sprung for the Radian. Wow. I got some eye-popping views of Saturn through it earlier this year, but looking at Jupiter with its detailed bands, zones, and clouds, the difference a top-quality eyepiece can make is readily apparent. Even in transit, Io was easy to spot. The Red Spot stood out clearly, and though seeing has not been all that transparent this evening, in moments of clarity I’ve seen detail on Jupiter tonight that I’ve never seen under the best of conditions before. The Radian set me back about $235.

By the way, Tele Vue has discontinued the 10mm Radian and some are speculating they’ll drop the line entirely in favor of the new Delos line that came out in the middle of last year. They have the same eye relief but a wider field of view. I’m really impressed with the Radian. I have one other Tele Vue eyepiece, a 24mm Panoptic, and it, too, is marvelous, offering tremendous, wide-field views. They’re on the pricey side, but well worth it for the quality views they deliver.

What are your favorite eyepieces?

Alas, as I’m wrapping up this post at about 11 p.m. Friday the clouds have indeed rolled in. I had planned to get back out there. I’m working on the Astronomical League Urban Observing program, and one of the last items I need to spot is NGC 3242—The Ghost of Jupiter. It’s a planetary nebula that’s only visible around here from about now until early spring. We don’t get enough clear nights this, or any, time of year. NGC 3242 transits a little after 2 a.m. Saturday. It looks like it will do so behind the clouds and the quest will have to wait for yet another night.

Let’s hope for some clearing for a peek at the Ghost of Jupiter, and for all of those clubs planning star parties for Saturday evening. Check the Seattle Astronomy calendar for details about one near you.