Let’s look at Jupiter April 22

Illustration: Jupiter and His Moons as They will appear April 22, 2017, 10:00 PM EDT
Simulation: Jupiter and His Moons as They will appear April 22, 2017, 10:00 PM EDT


FINAL UPDATE: In all, 18 people and one dog took a chance on the changeable skies and paid the observatory a visit. Cloud cover ebbed and flowed, changing Jupiter’s appearance through the telescope. Interestingly, some of the better views of the planet actually occurred when thin clouds dimmed the brilliant planet cutting the glare. Viewers could make out the gas giant’s two major temperate cloud belts and sometimes one or two more! The four Galilean Moons were visible nearly all of the time. Owing to generally poor viewing conditions, the evening was limited to Jupiter only – dimmer objects were not available. The April 22 program will be repeated in May, given clear skies. By the way, before the dog came, a cat arrived with one of our visitors but refused to come inside, so kitty didn’t count!

UPDATE: Saturday, 9:00 PM: Opened when we could see Jupiter through thin clouds but expect the sky will cloud over again before clearing in the wee hours. Check out Twitter feed to the right for updates and closings…

UPDATE, Saturday, 4:00 PM: Forecasts call for partly- to mostly-cloudy conditions tonight. A final go/no-go decision on opening will be made later but, if we do open, we DO NOT expect to be able to see dimmer objects such as star clusters or the comet listed below. More later….

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, April 22, from 9:00 to 11:00 PM. This will be the first scheduled Open Night of the 2017 season. The “star” of the night will be planet Jupiter, brilliant in our southeast sky. We will also seek out the M3 star cluster and, later, the Hercules Cluster and (with some luck) Comet C/2015 V2. Other objects of interest may also be viewed. Of course, all of the night’s observing depends upon clear skies and those have been in short supply this spring!

Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Juno reaches Jupiter after five-year journey

Image: This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Juno mission, launched nearly five years ago, will soon reach its final destination: the most massive planet in our solar system, Jupiter. On the evening of July 4, at roughly 9 PM PDT (12 AM EDT, July 5), the spacecraft will complete a burn of its main engine, placing it in orbit around the king of planets.

During Juno’s orbit-insertion phase, or JOI, the spacecraft will perform a series of steps in preparation for a main engine burn that will guide it into orbit. At 9:16 PM EDT (July 4), Juno will begin to turn slowly away from the sun and toward its orbit-insertion attitude. Then 72 minutes later, it will make a faster turn into the orbit-insertion attitude.

At 10:41 PM EDT, Juno switches to its low-gain antenna. Fine-tune adjustments are then made to the spacecraft’s attitude. Twenty-two minutes before the main engine burn, at 10:56 PM, the spacecraft spins up from two to five revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it for the orbit insertion burn.

At 11:18 PM, Juno’s 35-minute main-engine burn will begin. This will slow it enough to be captured by the giant planet’s gravity. The burn will impart a mean change in velocity of 1,212 MPH (542 meters a second) on the spacecraft. It is performed in view of Earth, allowing its progress to be monitored by the mission teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, via signal reception by Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

After the main engine burn early July 5 (Eastern Daylight Time), Juno will be in orbit around Jupiter. The spacecraft will spin down from five to two RPM, turn back toward the sun, and ultimately transmit telemetry via its high-gain antenna. At Jupiter’s current distance of 536.9 million miles from Earth, radio signals will take about 48 minutes to reach the DSN.

Juno starts its tour of Jupiter in a 53.5-day orbit. The spacecraft saves fuel by executing a burn that places it in a capture orbit with a 53.5-day orbit instead of going directly for the 14-day orbit that will occur during the mission’s primary science collection period. The 14-day science orbit phase will begin after the final burn of the mission for Juno’s main engine on October 19.

JPL manages the Juno mission for NASA. The mission’s principal investigator is Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The mission is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

Learn more about the June mission, and get an up-to-date schedule of events, at:

http://www.nasa.gov/juno

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/jupiter/junotoolkit

July 4: NASA’s Juno arrives at Jupiter

 
Mission Trailer Video: Secrets lie deep within Jupiter, shrouded in the solar system’s strongest magnetic field and most lethal radiation belts. On July 4, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will plunge into uncharted territory, entering orbit around the gas giant and passing closer than any spacecraft before. Juno will see Jupiter for what it really is, but first it must pass the trial of orbit insertion.

For much more on NASA’s Juno mission, click here!

Open Night: Saturday, May 14

UPDATE: Due to current and predicted overcast sky conditions and the high probability of inclement weather, tonight’s planned Open Night has been CANCELED. Let’s hope for much better conditions the night of June 18 when we hope to see Saturn and Mars, as well as other amazing things! – 5/14/2016 @ 4:30 PM

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College is to be open for public observing Saturday, May 14, from 9:00 to 11:00 PM. As is so often the case, however, predicted weather conditions for this event do not look good; cloudy skies with rain chances are expected. If the sky is very cloudy, the open night event will be canceled and the observatory will not be open. Check back for updates and a final decision and announcement to be made Saturday.

The always-impressive First Quarter Moon will be featured as well as brilliant planet Jupiter and its moons. Given time and visibility, M13: the Great Globular Cluster of constellation Hercules, will also be viewed.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.
The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Season Opener: April 16

UPDATE: In all, 24 people of various ages shared views of Jupiter and Earth’s Moon over the course of the evening. The Moon’s brightness drown out dimmer objects but views of its surface thrilled and delighted visitors.

What better way to celebrate winter’s end and de-stress for Tax Day than to enjoy a look at a beautiful night sky? While winter’s end and Tax Day are certain, we can only hope the sky will be clear the night of April 16 as we host our first Open Night of 2016. Hours are 9:00 to 11:00 PM, a late start due to Daylight Saving Time.

Given clear sky, two stunning sights of the night sky await us: first, the intriguing waxing Gibbous Moon; a little later, brilliant Jupiter only a month past its closest approach this year! Given time and visibility, we will also seek out M44 the Beehive open star cluster, and M13: the Great Globular Cluster of constellation Hercules.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

More planets line up in our morning sky

Illustration: January 2016: Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky
January 2016: Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky

 

Over recent weeks we have watched as several planets have appeared close together in our morning sky — when clear, that is — and even seen them shift their positions as the days passed! Beginning this frigid week and continuing into mid-February, five of Earth’s Solar System siblings will be visible, spanning the southern sky. This is the first time since 2005 that this planetary lineup has occurred. If we get a break in morning cloud cover go out, just before dawn’s early light, and look for the planetary parade. Little Mercury will be the hardest to spot being both dim and close to the horizon. Venus and Jupiter will be easy as they are the brightest of the bunch. Golden Saturn and finally reddish Mars should also be easy to find though Mars isn’t a standout. The gathering will occur again late this summer and in the evening sky. The planets aren’t really very much closer together in space during this time. The chart below illustrates the current relative positions of the planets; it’s our point of view from Earth that makes creates the scene: something like watching racers on a race track, appearing closer and farther apart as they run laps in their concentric lanes.

Illustration: January 2016: Planetary Positions - Area Between Lines of Sight Illustrates Area of Space We See
January 2016: Planetary Positions – Area Between Lines of Sight Illustrates Area of Space We See

Jupiter and Venus converge June 30

Image: Jupiter and Venus Converge June 30 - Chart Courtesy Sky & Telescope
Jupiter and Venus Converge June 30 – Chart Courtesy Sky & Telescope

Let’s hope for clear skies the evening of June 30 when the ongoing conjunction of Jupiter and Venus gets really cozy! Tuesday evening will see the two planets sharing a space only 1/3-degree apart in our sky; they will look like a brilliant double star. After Tuesday’s encounter, the planets will drift slowly apart night-by-night but will remain a beautiful sight in twilight. Chart courtesy Sky & Telescope – SkyAndTelescope.com

Saturday, April 25 Open Night: See Moon and Jupiter

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open to the public on Saturday, April 25, from 9:00 to 10:00 PM. On the observing list for the night are: Jupiter, Beehive Cluster, M3 Star Cluster, and the Moon. Cloudy skies cancel the event! Trees to our west may interfere with viewing of both the Moon and Jupiter later in our session, so earlier arrival would be good.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. For updates and more information, see the observatory’s Web site: StephensObservatory.org or “@StephensObs” on Twitter.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Cold night, great view

Photo: Earth's Moon - Mare Serenitatis & Mare Iridium. Photo by James Guilford.
The Moon: Mare Serenitatis (left, Sea of Serenity), half-lit Mare Iridium (right, Sea of Rainbows)

I can’t say as I blame them, the people who didn’t show for our observatory open night Saturday, March 28 — only seven braved the cold. After all, the temperature was about 19° (F), darned cold! But the sky was clear and the waxing Moon was high in the sky. Both Moon and Jupiter were sharing constellation Cancer with The Beehive star cluster (M44). Still, those sensible people who stayed home and warm missed a glorious view of old Luna. In my idle time waiting for visitors, I tried out a little afocal astrophotography using the observatory’s 9-inch Warner and Swasey telescope (ca. 1901) and my little Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 all-in-one. Most shots were a little shy of sharp, and all had some degree of chromatic aberration, and all had a big chunk of image missing where our century-old star diagonal is missing a bit of glass. One shot, however, did work out well, especially after a little fix-up including conversion to monochrome to eliminate color fringing. Not long after the last of our brave visitors left, I caught sight of the indistinct reappearance of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and that was it… time to close up and go home. My toes needed to be thawed.