We’re at the letter J in our A-Z Challenge tour of heavenly bodies. J must stand for Jupiter as there are no constellations within the 88 listed constellations that began with a J. Besides, Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in our sky (behind the Sun, moon, and Venus). Since the planet is beyond our solar system, it can be seen at all levels of height in the sky (Venus and Mercury are only seen near the horizon). It’s a huge planet (but only about 1% the size of the sun). The weight of Jupiter is estimated to 2.5 times the weight of all the other planets. This big boy’s gravitational pull is so great that it’s known as the vacuum cleaner of the solar system. It would take 1321 earths to equal one Jupiter. Jupiter is not as solid as our planet and unless one enjoys (and could live off of) huffing ammonium, the planet’s atmosphere doesn’t have much to offer the human respiratory system.
Jupiter has been known as a planet that moves through the Zodiac since ancient times. In the early 17th Century, Galileo discovered the four major moons of Jupiter (the Galilean moons, one of which was named Europa, a name borrowed by Santana for their wonderful instrumental hit). In the 17th and early 18th century, there were hopes that these moons which had a regular movement could serve as a clock to help solve the “Longitude” problem (I’ll talk about that when I get to the letter L). They didn’t but the focus on the moons led to a number of other discovers such as the speed of light. Today, thanks to better telescopes and the vacuum affect, the planet is known to boast 67 moons (maybe as many as the semi-mortal children that Jupiter sired.
|Jupiter and its moons|
Jupiter was named for the Roman God (the Greek Zeus). He was Hercules’ daddy (see my H entry) and seemed to take it as his right to seduce beautiful mortals.
This is a wonderful month to observe Jupiter. (Actually, April is a wonderful month to observe all the bright planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). Tonight, Jupiter can be seen rising in the eastern sky around sunset and a bit before the nearly full but waning moon. It is visible all night, the later you look the higher it’ll be, and will be dropping low in the western sky by dawn.
|Moonrise (Jupiter was maybe 15 degrees above)|