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We are in the midst of the western cold snap. I've been walking the dogs around the fields about 5pm, the day is gone, but it's not quite dark enough to say dusk has taken hold. Jupiter at magnitude -2.7 shines like a beacon in the sky to the East, well below zenith. After 5 minutes or so, a few scattered stars appear and then a pinkish Aldebaran peeks out below Jupiter.

Last evening as I watched the display unfold, I mused about the wonder of the times we live in. Documented observations of Jupiter date back to the 7th or 8th century BCE. There is a claim that a Chinese visual discovery of a moon of Jupiter was made in 362 BCE. Only in the last 50 years have we begun to understand the complexities of the Jovian system. And now, we can fully appreciate the relationship of Jupiter to our planet through photographs from space capturing both systems.

On return from the walk I poked around and found this article on Earth and Jupiter Seen in a Single Photo Taken From Mars.

Back on May 8th, 2003, the Mars Orbiter Camera on the Mars Global Surveyor had the rare opportunity to photograph both the Earth and Jupiter in the same region of space. It was the first planetary conjunction observed from another planet, with the Earth 86 million miles away and Jupiter 600 million miles away. The resulting image, contains both planets, along with Earth's moon and Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa.



Here's the enlarged view pointed to by the red arrow.



If you're wondering why Jupiter looks larger than Earth in the photograph even though it's so far away, it's because of perspective distortion coupled with the fact that Jupiter is so much bigger.

Here's a to-scale size comparison:

 

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Now I want a telescope. :(
Believe me. You don't want a telescope unless you have a lot of money to spend. Because once you look through a telescope for the first time, you are automatically committing yourself to spending more money. MUCH more.

Or if you buy a cheap telescope and you don't have a lot of money, you are going to spend a lot of time wishing you could afford something better.
 

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JCGrey!

Don't do that! :( Earth is going to get sucked into the Red Spot of Jupiter :afr.
 

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Recently, I found a cheapo telescope for $10 at a thrift store. I was able to see the bands on Jupiter as well as the four Galilean moons pretty clearly. Unfortunately, it sucks for everything else, but I definitely got more out of it than I expected for the price.
 

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The Jupiter/Moon conjunction sure was beautiful. The Moon alone has been exceptionally beautiful lately. I haven't been able to take my eyes of it.
 

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For those wanting a telescope, but that cannot afford a super powerful one check into your local universities. The one nearest me holds viewings for the public quite often, and I am pretty sure it is completely free!
 
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