Be sure to observe Jupiter this week, during its finest apparition of a lifetime.
You’ve never seen Jove like this. Jupiter opposition season for 2022 is upon us tonight, as the King of the Planet shines rising in the east opposite to the setting Sun in the west. This is the very best time to catch Jupiter and its retinue of moons, as they dominate the sky throughout the night. And although Jupiter reaches opposition as seen from the Earth nearly every year, this one is special as it’s the closest to the Earth in our lifetimes, and the nearest for the 21st century.
Sometimes the tried and true methods are still the best, even in observational astronomy. Researchers at the University of Prague demonstrated this recently in a study of the eclipsing binary system V994 Herculis (V994 Her).
Researchers P. Zasche and R. Uhla used a method known as the Light-travel-time Effect to verify that V994 Her is actually a double binary. If that method sounds familiar to any astronomy historians out there, that’s because it was first used by 17th century astronomers to gauge the speed of light.
V994 Her is a rarity in the skies. While many eclipsing binaries are known, V994 Her is one of only six quadruple eclipsing binary stars discovered. An eclipsing binary star is a system where the two stars pass one in front of the other from our line of sight. Although too close to be split visually, eclipsing binaries rise and fall in brightness periodically. One famous example is the star Algol (Beta Persei) in the constellation Perseus. Algol means the “Demon Star” in Arabic, which suggests that its curious nature was known to Arab astronomers in pre-telescopic times.