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Sun, Moon & Miscellaneous


JUPITER 2009-2015

Jupiter, the "King" of the planets, the most massive body in our Solar System after the Sun, its powerful gravitational pull holding many satellites/moons in its sway/orbit, including the 4 "Galilean Moons" - large satellites that resemble small planets rotating around Jove...

They are easy objects to see even in a small telescope as they flit back & forth around Jupiter, often crossing in front of the planet...& then their small disks (even in small scopes they appear as such) with their dark shadows trailing behind (or ahead, depending upon from which side the sunlight is coming from!) creating regular "eclipses" across the Jovian surface.

Three of these moons are substantially bigger than our own Moon with the smallest not much smaller than The Moon...an idea of the size comparisons can be seen in the comparison image shown here...interestingly, scientists now seriously consider that life might exist on Ganymede & Europa in the oceans beneath their surface crusts…


Jupiter's strong gravity (2.4X that of the Earth's) not only controls numerous satellites but it also acts as a type of "gate-keeper" for our own Earth in that many small but dangerous space objects (the wandering "loose cannons" or "debris" of our Solar System) are "vacuumed up" so to speak by Jupiter's gravitational pull, often plunging into its' atmosphere to be consumed - thus reducing the number of potentially "dangerous encounters" of such objects with our Earth... J

Note:               Most of the images on this page are "clickable" and will open up as "full scale images" in a new tab.
                        Depending on the size of your monitor you may have to click again on this image to enlarge it.
                        All the images should respond favourably to the use of the "zoom" tool of your browser page if
                        you want to up the scale further!

Jupiter is one of the "Gas Giants" but its gravity is such that the gases at the core of this planet act in many ways like metal, such is the extreme pressure therein...& around this giant planet there is a magnetic field nearly 20,000X that of Earth's. The magnetosphere of Jupiter, which is composed of this field as well as extremely high radiation levels swells out from the planet some 600,000 to 2 million miles (1 million to 3 million km) toward the sun and tapers to a tail extending more than 600 million miles (1 billion km) behind Jupiter...!


The planet's gaseous nature provides a truly spectacular view in a telescope from down here on Earth...Jupiter is the planet where we see the ever-changing extremes of raging storms & other weather systems interacting constantly, the different & more denser compositions of gases from layers below the surface being constantly dredged up or intermingled/exchanged with the surface/cloud top compositions to create amazing panoramas of colour & intricate, changing patterns..!

Seen through the telescope Jupiter is a disk flattened at the poles - it rotates in under 10 hours despite its enormous size, causing bulging at the equator & flattening at the poles - with multiple coloured bands arranged in dark & light "belts & zones" horizontally striping the disk...these created by the strong east-west winds streaming across the planet's upper atmosphere at 400+ mph (640+kph)

Frozen ammonia crystals create the white clouds we see, whilst darker clouds indicate other chemicals - with those appearing blue laying at greater depths in Jupiter's cloud layers...

These cloud patterns, constantly changing with the enormous weather systems that also dredge up varying layers & colourations presents a constant spectacle of ever-changing shapes & patterns to the observer...indeed, from looking at this planet regularly over the last few years I cannot help but recognise many similar patterns in our own cloudscapes here on Mother Earth...extending notions of symmetry in nature well beyond the bounds of our own planet... J

Taken at around 38° above the horizon these first few images opposite, above and below, with either red or infrared filters (black & white) still display some fine detail on Jupiter's surface...



No general description of this planet's appearance would be complete without mentioning the "Great Red Spot" or "GRS" - possibly first seen about 350 years ago, this gargantuan hurricane-like storm is approximately 3X as wide as our Earth across its width. This feature, whose colour fades & then intensifies over time spins at about 350kph counter-clockwise around its centre.

Despite Jupiter being such a magnificent spectacle & one of those planets that yields the finest appearances in both colour, intricacy & variation over time, unfortunately, it has been the most frustrating for us to image really successfully since we began imaging... L

This is mainly because Jupiter has been low in our skies for quite some time now...in fact ever since we acquired the basic skill levels & equipment to do justice to this planet when imaging: but it is slowly making its way further South each year now & we eagerly await the time in about 2017 when it should be high enough in the sky for us to do justice to this outstanding planet..! J

Regardless, there have been the occasional times when we have managed very satisfactory imaging outcomes with Jupiter - mainly those occasions when we have been able to travel a reasonable distance North to target it higher in the sky where the "seeing" is usually better...although there have been a couple of nights where, despite Jove being so low you would not expect anything at all we have been rewarded for our persistence.  J

Of interest in some of the earliest of our images displayed om this page is the disappearance of one of the 2 prominent dark bands/belts on Jupiter's disk, the Southern Equatorial Belt or "SEB" - every few decades the South Equatorial Belt appears to disappear, its location turning completely white for some time due to this (darker) belt being covered in a "cloud deck" of the white cloud material until an interchange in compositional layers restores the "traditional" darker appearance to the SEB, as seen in the images below...


An interesting aspect of the Galilean (4 largest) moons of Jupiter is that as they orbit this planet they can appear to "cross over" or transit or even eclipse each other with their shadows...these phenomena all depends upon the angle viewed from Earth & are quite different to these moons & their shadows moving in front of Jupiter itself...

Above is a small animated image showing Io (the smaller moon) crossing/transiting in front of  Ganymede whilst Jupiter itself rotates on its own axis...I have created a "reversing animation" here to make the event "non-stop" but in reality Io only passes across the face of Ganymede in the forward direction (right to left) during this phenomenon, with Jupiter also rotating from r-l... ;)

One of the few reasonably successful colour (rgb) images we managed of Jupiter this year, again at that low elevation of 38°...we can see the Great Red Spot (GRS) sitting part-cradled in the SEB & rotating out of view on the far left of the disk.


This is the red channel (mono) image from the above capture...


For these images we used the WinJupos software program to create a pair of images that give us the view of looking "down" onto the polar perspectives of Jupiter using the rgb image above...

These turned out surprisingly well, all things considered. J



This infrared image displays some nice detail on Jove, the dark thin ribbon-like "extensions" from the 2 dark belts (the SEB & NEB) that protrude into the bright central band (the "Equatorial Band/Zone" or "EZ") like threads or tendrils are termed "festoons".

These features can also take on some outstanding "feathery" appearances, being extensions of the darker material of the aforesaid NEB &SEB...

Another "passable" rgb/colour image for the low elevation - one of those long "tendrils" mentioned in the preceding image is very long in this image!



Another Jovian/Galilean moon event, again featuring Io passing in front of (transiting) Ganymede. But this time Io (the smaller moon) passes across Ganymede more fully than in the image before where it just "grazed' the lower section of Ganymede: here the animation is a more "close-up" view than the previous one.

We wind back the clock over 2 years to an image where Jupiter is a little higher in elevation in this image...we had travelled a fair distance North to try & achieve the better imaging possibilities here although Jupiter was still only a few degrees above 40 degrees elevation.

"Red Spot Junior" can be seen in the lower half of Jove, this feature is another relatively long-lived storm like the Great Red Spot. (but nowhere near its' big brother's age!) The white central core of "Junior" is well-shown in this image...



Still further North as we chased greater elevation for Jupiter in the same year as the above image, this one with Jupiter at almost 50° - not too far from what would be considered a reasonable elevation to image at...but the extended "Dry Season" up North meant many huge bushfires were burning & the sky transparency was severely affected by the smoke that hung in the air from this: it had been very dry - and whilst rain meant clouds we had been hoping for some to put out the fires & clear the air of smoke, but that was not to be..! L

Regardless, this image was still quite pleasing as not only the GRS was visible but one of Jove's large moons (Io) can be seen on the left crossing in front of the planet's disk with its black shadow trailing along behind...if you realise the direction of the sunlight is coming from the left you will understand why the shadow is far to the right of the moon itself! :) Also, you will notice that Io has a very dark "top & bottom" due to the fact that the poles of this moon appear very dark in comparison to the rest of the moon's disk.

Here we see the largest of Jupiter's moons Ganymede to the upper left of Jupiter...some very obscure markings can also be made out on Ganymede. (Particularly if you view the “Full Scale Image”)



Another "back & forth" animated image of Jupiter in infrared...

Back to even lower elevation down South than Jupiter is in 2015...30° actually - but for the elevation a reasonable outcome with the GRS visible.



This image & the next one down were taken at 29° & 28° - for so low in the sky & without the benefits of an ADC perhaps 2 of our best to date when all things are considered.. (ADC = Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector, a device that counters the effects of low-elevation diffraction)

Taken at 28° there is still a wealth of detail in this image...the festoon/"tendril" reaching out from one of the dark belts looks almost like a claw (seen in the image above also) whilst down towards the bottom of the disk are 2 circular white spots, polar storms.



Back in late 2012 to counteract the very low elevation of Jupiter (such as in the 2 images above taken in January 2013) we travelled to Tennant Creek in the hope of getting some higher elevation images before the "Wet Season" unleashed its fury on the Northern Territory...

Although still only 48° in elevation we were lucky enough on one night to find some reasonable seeing for an hour or so, resulting in images with quite a lot of detail present - & the GRS was also on view! J

Incidentally the "Wet Season" was unleashed this particular night - luckily after a couple of hours of imaging Pat noticed a large cloud-bank building up from the south-east & we hurriedly packed & covered everything up...the subsequent thunderstorms & rain was the heaviest we have ever experienced in our entire lives..!

Here are the individual channels for the rgb/colour image above - notable in that the blue channel was pretty reasonable.

The blue channel is most affected by atmospheric dispersion at lower elevation as well as being the most difficult channel to get a good image from in general. (48° still being fairly low for the blue channel...)



Another pair of "Polar Projections" using the WinJupos software to simulate the view looking down upon the planet's poles, constructed from the colour image above...

2 side-by-side images of Jupiter that night showing how the planet rotates over a fairly short amount of time as evidenced by the changing position of the GRS. (Great Red Spot)

Red Spot Junior can also be seen in these images as well as in those images above from this night...

It should be appreciated that as Jupiter is a "Gas Giant" what we see as "surface detail" are actually clouds, everything we see is in fluid motion & the positions of various features change in relation to each other over time...such as the proximity of "Junior" to the GRS. (& of course many are merely ephemeral, appearing & then disappearing)



A very small "back & forth" animation of Jove on that night displaying the movement/rotation of the planet's disk...

Another lower elevation Jupiter image with one of its major moons (Io) just off of the right hand (following "F") limb after it has just emerged from behind Jupiter...



You will notice that in this image of Jupiter there is only one dark belt/band instead of the usual 2...these 2 dark bands are the NEB (Northern Equatorial Belt) & the SEB (Southern Equatorial Belt) except in this image the SEB is missing..!

However, if you look where the SEB is normally situated you will see that in the blue/grey/white space there are a couple of darker "squiggles" - these markings/details are important especially when viewed alongside the next few images below this particular one!

These "squiggles" are in fact the first signs that the SEB is starting to reform after having gone missing for some time..! It is in this particular area that what is termed "an SEB revival" has started.

This red channel (filter) image shows the vacant SEB area of Jupiter...not devoid of activity but devoid of the dark material that is the SEB (ie, the gases that are darker in appearance that are normally in this region)

Interestingly on examining this image I realise that a very similar vista is presented here to the image above...2 weeks earlier here & "less-rotated" than the one above - rotation is from left to right in these 2 images - but there does appear to be some dark detail in the same position that heralded the SEB revival in the image above - perhaps an earlier indication of this "revival" is shown here..?!?



Here are 2 images side-by-side, taken 10 days apart: the image on the right is a colour/rgb image of the red channel mono image directly above.

The markings/dark detail referred to in the above image appears as a bluish semi-circular feature just to the left of the CM (the imaginary line of longitude running from top dead-centre to bottom dead-centre) in that bright area where normally the dark SEB would be present...

This image shows another view of Jupiter, this time displaying the GRS (Great Red Spot) "sitting" in a bright bluish-white area whereas "normally" we would see it engulfed within the dark SEB. (South Equatorial Belt)



Here are the 3 mono channels (red, green & blue) that make up the colour (rgb) image in the one above...

This image from 26th October 2010 - slightly larger scale but the same image as one of the side-by-side images 3 up from this one... :)



This is one of the very first images of Jupiter we ever captured –albeit with a smaller telescope & (much) inferior camera: back then (2009) Jupiter was much higher in the sky than it is now before it started on its’ regular journey North where it has been for the last few years.

Hopefully when it returns in the next few years to the sorts of elevations it was when this image was taken our scope & the much better cameras we now have (along with all the added experience!) will enable us to really do justice to “The King of The Planets”..! J


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