Jupiter and Its Moons

Last night, (Friday, August 27) my wife, Carol, and I were looking at the near full moon.  There was a bright start to the right and a bit lower than the moon.  Carol commented that she doesn’t remember that star being on the right side of the moon.  I guessed that maybe it was a planet and then went in and fired up Stellarium, a free planetarium program that I have on my Ubuntu computer.  The “bright star” turned out to be Jupiter.  I tried looking at it through binoculars, but that didn’t work too well.  I also have an ancient telescope that I haven’t had out in years.  I brought it out, and after spending some good time trying to locate the moon, then locating Jupiter (As I said, the telescope is very old and the sighting eyepiece has been damaged for years), we focused in on Jupiter.  It was very small, but clear.  I could see four very tiny dits of light around Jupiter, that could just be reflections of something in the telescope or my eyes.  Nevertheless, I went back to Stellarium, and zoomed way in on Jupiter, and lo and behold, there were four moons visible around the large planet.  I went back to the telescope, and there were Callisto, Europa, Io, and Ganymede, exactly where they were in real life (except the telescope reversed the image).  Europa was right next to Jupiter, but it could clearly be seen in the telescope when it was sharply focused.  It was quite exciting to see, even if it was an underpowered old telescope, being used by a very amateur, amateurish astronomer.  Click a picture below to see a larger view.

– John

Jupiter taken with digital camera through telescope.
The moon and Jupiter through the naked eye.
Stellarium's view of what we saw.
How we saw Jupiter through the telescope. (this photo is from Stellarium)