As we know, Jupiter’s Southern Equatorial Belt has been missing beneath its icy clouds for almost a year now. While astronomers are able to use instruments like Keck – complete with infrared and adaptive optics – we here on Earth have to take our views of Jupiter a little more naturally.
As you can see from this webcam image given to us by John Chumack, even our thin earthly clouds can’t quite hide bright Jupiter. It has returned to the same ruddy, lined face that most of us fell in love with the first time we observed it. Stunning details? No… Because this is how Jupiter really looks when you first glimpse it in the eyepiece.
Right now the westering Jupiter isn’t in the best of positions for extended observing, but it is at a comfortable height and a comfortable time. While it might be tempting to throw a huge amount of magnification its way, it actually makes the view worse rather than improving it. With steady seeing condtions, around 150-200X is ideal – reducing the magnification even lower if the atmosphere is turbulent. You’ll find you’ll also have greater success using your orthoscopic or plossl design eyepieces, too. Got color filters? Go ahead and experiment! Blues, reds and yellows all cause contrast change which can reveal subtle details. As unusual as it may sound, sketching also helps. You don’t need to be a Rembrandt. Just the act of translating what the eye sees onto paper greatly improves your “human” focus.
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Don’t forget the galiean moons! As you can see, Europa can look like a world of its own. While larger aperture instruments are able to resolve events like shadow transits, don’t feel left out if you have a small telescope. It’s very exciting to witness one of Jupiter’s satellites being eclipsed by the parent planet – or disappearing as it passes in front. There are even times when the moons eclipse each other! Go on… Take advantage of the early evening hours and enjoy Jupiter.
Because you never know when the perfect moment seeing will arrive…
Many thanks to John Chumack of Galactic Images for sharing his recent image of Jupiter with us.