The four largest moons of Jupiter are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. First seen by Galileo Galilei in December 1609 or January 1610, he described them as satellites in orbit of Jupiter in March 1610. They are easily seen near the planet using a simple telescope or a steadied pair of binoculars. They are currently well placed with Jupiter in the evening sky to the southeast soon after sunset.
Imagine being high above Jupiter looking down at the planet and the four moons. Desktop planetarium software is very helpful here. In this view, Jupiter is centered. The Sun is far to the left off-screen. The moons are labeled in each of their orbits. The fastest is Io closest to Jupiter. Callisto is the slowest. Three of the moon have shadow lines drawn in orange. Play the video and watch their movements. The shadows cast by each of those three moons are intercepted by Jupiter. The software speeded up the rate many times.
What would this event look like for viewers on Earth? Earth would be located far off-screen to the left toward the Sun. Could we see the shadows cast by the moons upon the cloud tops of Jupiter? Again, software can simulate the view accurately. The answer is yes. Earthlings with powerful amateur telescopes are capable of seeing the shadows.
Play the video and watch for several things in this simulation. The first is Callisto casting its shadow on Jupiter. Over the course of several hours, it moves across the entire face of the planet. Next, Ganymede and Europa approach from the left. At 24 sec in the video, both of their shadows are cast. Also, Callisto’s shadow moves off the planet and the moon Io disappears into the shadow of Jupiter just off the right limb of the planet.
Watch at the 30 sec time how Europa is occulted by Ganymede. Both shadows are still visible but they become one briefly at the 32 sec mark. Finally, at 38 sec, both moons and their shadows are off to the right. Did you notice how Io emerged to the left of Jupiter in the distance? You might need to view both of these videos a few times.
This morning the Sun was in annular eclipse for a small part of the world. Parts of Canada, Greenland, as well as northern Siberia, were graced with views. At sunrise here in the midwest of the U.S. I was not able to see any of it. Instead, I went to Time and Date for live telescopic views streamed from several locations. The views were excellent from Science North, a science center located in northern Ontario in the city of Sudbury. The Sun rose with the Moon covering most of it illustrated by this screen shot.
I like to watch movements of the planets which bring them into close encounters, or conjunctions. Some conjunctions are at a time and position in the sky so images taken over a few days can show their movements. Such was the case June 2019. A big challenge to getting well-timed images is cloud cover. We have had too much of it.
This image is a composite of three evenings of images looking west-northwest at 9:30pm. The camera was on a tripod at the same spot framing two light poles. I cut and pasted the locations of Mercury and Mars from the images taken on June 7 and June 20 onto this image taken on June 11. The dates for each are labeled. Click here or on the image to embiggen in a separate tab.
Note that Mercury, in yellow highlight, moved toward the upper left between June 7 and 11. It moved farther to the upper left by June 20. Mars, in white, moved down to the right between June 7 and 11. It continued down to the right by June 20. I hoped to image the two planets on June 17 or 18 when they appeared very close together, the width of a full moon. But clouds happened.
🔭 Updates an earlier post to include recent changes and new information. 🔭
Desktop planetarium software helps plan viewing sessions and keep track of the planets and Moon. Many products are available for all computer platforms and smartphones. A Google search yields links to many sources. Open source and free Stellarium is on my desktop computer. It can be customized to your location and has a nice look and feel. For Android and Mac phones and tablets, I like SkySafari. It isn’t free but is inexpensive.
Online planetarium sites are popular and offer many features. Below are highlights of a few I like. With multiple features, a unique look and feel, and different levels of detail, they can help satisfy your curiosity about astronomical events. I welcome reader questions or reviews about using these tools or others you find helpful.