Copyright 2009 Starry Mirror
Astronomy From West Virginia
WATCHING THE GAS GIANTS IN JUNE 2009
BRIDGEPORT, WV - Here at our little observatory, we have been watching the gas giant planets. Saturn is visible high in the west just after Sunset. As the night wears on, Jupiter rises at about midnight, and lately the big planet has been appearing so close to Neptune that both can be seen in the same telecope field.
Jupiter looks a little different every time it is seen. Features in the cloud tops evolve day by day, and the Great Red Spot can be seen when it is on the side of the planet facing us. Jupiter turns so fast that its features can be seen moving across the disk after just a few minutes. And, its moons look like tiny disks when seen in a large telescope.
On the night of June 6-7, we managed to get the pictures of Jupiter and Saturn at left. It takes a lot of processing of the images to bring out the detail, and this has made them look almost like drawings. On Jupiter, the Great Red Spot can barely be seen on the left. The dot above Saturn's pole is in fact its large moon, Titan.
Neptune doesn't look like much in a telescope. A pale green disk is all that can be seen. Though it appears very close to Jupiter in our sky, it is about six times more distant. It's still fun to see the famous planet from our own back yard.
Saturn will soon be lost in the glow of Sunset, and when it reappears in the morning sky this Fall its rings will be seen edge-on, and will disappear. They'll only be gone for a while, and in the meantime, Jupiter will be visible for the rest of this year, as it moves into the evening sky.
We took these pictures on the night of June 6-7, 2009. Processing has made them look almost like drawings.