Jupiter | Harmony of Motion

Galileo used a telescope to cast his eyes upon Jupiter and its moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto in 1610. He recorded notebook drawings of their positions nightly. He believed they moved around the planet Jupiter in what appeared to be orbits. His views were but snapshots in time.

Galileo Galilei | Siderius Nuncius | 1610

Telescopes improved over time. Technology brought us better views. Spacecraft Voyager and Galileo gave us marvelous images of the moons. But, those detailed images still gave us only snapshots in time. Those amazing views still lacked the perspective needed to show them in actual orbit about Jupiter.


Our view of the moons changed with the arrival of the Juno spacecraft on 4 July 2016. It approached Jupiter from above the plane of the orbits of Jupiter and its moons. The perspective allowed the JunoCam camera onboard to image the system multiple times for 17 days between 12 June and 29 June. The still images were made into a movie which shows the four moons in orbit several revolutions around the massive Jupiter.

Notice how the innermost moon Io orbits quickly. The farther moons more slowly. The planets of our solar system behave this way. All bodies in the universe orbit other bodies this same way. We are seeing from a unique perspective above the orbit plane. We are witnessing firsthand the effect of the law of gravitation. It is a thing of beauty. In addition, the three inner moons darken briefly as they pass into the shadow of Jupiter in each orbit.

Quoting Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, Southwest Research Institute:

“This is the king of our solar system, and its disciples going around it. It’s also representative of nature. This is how we look, that’s a mini solar system. And so, I think, to me it’s very significant because we’re finally able to see, with real video, real pictures, this motion. And we’ve only been able to imagine it up until today.”


12 thoughts on “Jupiter | Harmony of Motion

  1. Dare I say it? This video is out of this world. I presume that every mainstream media outlet is playing this video on a regular basis, and explaining to everyone what they’re seeing. Right?

    Well, maybe not. But they should be.

    • Yes, they should be. Bolton said in a news briefing they were going to do another from closer in on this orbit. I love this stuff. It makes it all so real.

    • I really enjoyed watching the emotions of the scientists in the recent news briefings before and following the orbit capture. They were like kids. They are relieved and having so much fun now. Boy were they nervous before.

  2. Hi Jim, fantastic video! Like you said, watching gravity at work. Simply incredible. Makes me wonder what Galileo would have thought of our times. Also, liked the soundtrack NASA choose. Could almost see a gruff Lee Marvin drunkenly steering Juno through space singing, “I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back. I was born under a wandrin’ star.” Take care, and thanks for putting up the video.

  3. It is operations like this one that give me renewed appreciation for what government can do and hope for humanity’s future, an expensive apolitical effort for nothing less than basic knowledge. The beautiful music is the cherry on top of this one.

    • I’m all in favor of searching for basic knowledge. We have so many smart people in the world who are eager to work, explore, and reach for the stars. Give them ways to do it.

I'd like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.