Jupiter Back in our Morning Sky for Season 2009

Jupiter is my favourite planet to take photos of, so it’s getting to the exciting time of the year now when Jupiter is gracing our morning skies again and will soon be high enough to point my telescope at and start capturing images.

It’s currently at about 10° altitude at approx 6am from mid-southern latitudes, and gets higher each day. In 1 months time, it will be at 27° altitude at 6am – still very low, but certainly high enough to capture some early season images and see what shape the GRS and Red Jr (Oval BA) take this year.

Jupiter + Callisto

Jupiter + Callisto

The image above was captured in late May 2008, and shows the GRS, Oval BA and the Little Red Spot (LRS) which was destroyed by its encounter with the GRS in early July.

Continue reading for a preview of Jupiter season 2009!

Even though Jupiter is very low right now, it’s still quite bright – shining at -1.94 magnitude making it nice and bright for some widefield camera photos. In fact on Wednesday morning, Jupiter and Mars are at a very close conjunction – only 34 arcminutes apart. Unfortunately however, Mars is very dim right now (mag 1.24) so may be hard to pick up visually in the pre-dawn sky, and may be washed out by Jupiter’s glare in a photo.

You could try pointing your telescope at the pair, as half-a-degree (30 arcminutes, the size of the full moon on the sky) is well within the field of view of most telescopes fitted with a low power eyepiece. The problem is that at such a low altitude they’ll both probably look like nothing more than a white and orange pair of boiling blobs 🙂 Still – i’d be happy to hear about your reports or see your images if you manage to spot the pair.

Fast forward a few days, and Jupiter takes part in a nice quadruple conjunction with the Moon, Mars and Mercury on the 23rd February. Now that will be quite a sight, but again, Mercury and Mars will still be quite dim but please post a link to your photos in the comments section.

The gas giant reaches Western Quadrature on the 16th May, and May is typically a great time for high resolution imaging in the early morning as the temperatures are cool and stable right before dawn. I’m expecting a lot of great images to be taken during May as Jupiter is up nice and high in the pre-dawn morning sky.

Jupiter reaches opposition on the 15th August 2009, when it will be at its closest distance from Earth. It will be slightly lower in the sky for Southern observers this year (approx 71° for mid-southern latitudes), but our Northern Hemisphere friends are cheering as it finally climbs out of the muck for them! It shines brightly at -2.86 magnitude and will dominate the sky overhead.

Jupiter closes out its season in late February 2010 when it’s back in conjunction with the Sun, but it will pass through Eastern Quadrature before then, on the 11th November.

So it’s going to be a long 2009 season for Jupiter and I’m looking forward to a great year of imaging with a renewed interest in heading outside in the cold, early winter mornings!

In a future post, I’ll highlight some exciting GRS and Moon transit events on Jupiter during season 2009.

Thanks for reading.

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