Published: 2012-11-29 18:11:00
Updated: 2012-11-29 18:11:58
Posted November 29, 2012
By Tony Rice
Observing Jupiter is a great way to get into astronomy or just to impress friends and family by identifying the prominent bright dot in the eastern sky.
For the next several months, Jupiter will shine brightly in the evening sky. It rises in the east around sunset, remains visible all night and sets around sunrise.
Jupiter was particularly easy to find Wednesday night, positioned just above the full moon. The gap between the moon and this gas giant will continue to expand over the next few nights, but you can still find Jupiter by looking above the moon. The moon will catch up to Jupiter again on Christmas night.
Four of Jupiter's 67 moons can be seen with just about any telescope or even a decent pair of binoculars held steady.
Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are collectively known as the "Galilean Moons" for the astronomer who discovered them in 1610 with the telescope he helped advance. Look again a few hours later and the position will change.
That discovery helped changed our view of the solar system from an Earth-centered one to one that revolved around the sun.
A handy tool shared on the Chapel Hill astronomy club's website helps identify the position of the moons.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.