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Looking for Jupiter

Find out how to look for Jupiter in the night sky.
In this video, we’re going to go looking for Jupiter. And if we’re going to do that, we’re going to need to plan ahead using a piece of free software called Stellarium. Stellarium is your own virtual planetarium. It allows you to look for any object in the nighttime sky, move back and forth through time, and look for things from any location on Earth. So we’re going to use Stellarium now to go looking for Jupiter.
OK, so here we have the sky from Greenwich at 11 o’clock in the morning. And we’re going to now use the programme to try and find Jupiter in the night sky. So first of all, we need to fast forward time. And we can do that by changing the time in the date/time tool. And we can fast forward to about 7 o’clock this evening. And that’s a good hour and a half after sunset. So it’ll be nice and dark. The next thing we want to do is to try and find Jupiter in the night sky. So we can use the search tool in Stellarium, type Jupiter, and now the programme will take us to Jupiter.
And if we pan down, we can see that Jupiter will be in the southeast this evening. Now, the next thing we want to do is to zoom in and take a closer look. So we can click onto Jupiter and we can click the spacebar, and that will focus onto the planet. And the next thing we want to do is to zoom in. And we can see there are three of the four moons that are visible tonight. So we are now ready to take a look at Jupiter in the real sky.
So earlier on, we used the programme Stellarium to find out where Jupiter is in the nighttime sky tonight, and we found that it’s off in the southeast and very high up. Now, looking at it right now, it looks a little bit like a star, except it doesn’t twinkle as much as the stars do. And one way we can capture an image is by simply using a camera smartphone. So that’s what I’m going to do now. I can aim for Jupiter and take a snap. And here’s what I got.
And if you want to see a bit more detail, then we need these, a pair of binoculars. And so I’m going to take a closer look at Jupiter. And through my binoculars, I can see the whole disc of the planet. And also, I can see three of the four Galilean moons, exactly as we saw in Stellarium earlier. And if we want to see even more detail, then we need to use a telescope. OK.
You’re seeing the length of our biggest telescope here at the observatory, the Great Equatorial Telescope. It’s a refracting telescope. It’s the biggest of its type in the UK. And it’s got two lenses near the top of the instrument that are 28 inches wide. And the light travels down through the telescope tube. The light bounces off the mirror at the bottom of the telescope and goes out to the eyepiece where we could actually have a little look through. So I think it’s about time we had a look at Jupiter. Yeah, let’s take a look. So I’m going to have a look through the eyepiece there. And wow! I can see the bright and dark bands across the surface of Jupiter.
I can’t quite see the bright red spot, so that must be on the other side of the planet this evening. That makes sense. OK, let’s have a little look. Yeah, I can see all that detail. And also, I’m spotting three of the four Galilean moons. And so that’s quite spectacular. I can see you’ve got Io, and we’ve got Ganymede, and we got Callisto. It must mean that Europa is the odd one out. Must be behind on the other side of the planet. So if you’re looking for Jupiter in the night sky, you can use anything from a camera on a smartphone to binoculars to a telescope to explore a planet.
And just by using Stellarium on your computer, you can plan for your very own observing night.

If you would like to try observing with your students but aren’t sure where to start, why not try looking for Jupiter.

This video takes you through how to get started with Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomers Rad and Brendan. We have also created a written guide which you can find here.

What would you like to see in the night sky?

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Our Solar System and Beyond: Teaching Primary Science

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