Heads UP! for Early July 2016

The planet Jupiter is still outstanding in the evening sky. It’s the brightest object in our sky, even though Jupiter looks 4% smaller by the end of the month.  It’s still a great time to get any telescope out and look for the dark cloud bands and Jupiter’s four brightest moons.  If you are lucky or plan well, you can see the Great Red Spot.  It’s smaller than it used to be, but looks much redder than the darker cloud bands – almost orange.

 

Here’s a photo from the Juno spacecraft from earlier this week.  What it shows is what we can see in our humble telescopes.

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Photo from Juno, released by NASA and labeled by the Planetary Society.

(But we don’t see a ‘half Jupiter’ – our view is a fully lit Jupiter.)  Juno is preparing to enter orbit around Jupiter on July 4th  .  While its camera is small, it’s primary mission is to measure the strength of microwave radiation from the interior of Jupiter.  This is like weather radar, where microwaves are used to measure water in Earth’s air.  In this case, Jupiter is the source of the microwaves.  Data from Juno will allow scientists to learn about what the inside of Jupiter is made of.  From Earth’s point of view, Jupiter is 4 percent smaller by the end of the month, but worth watching to see if the Great Red Spot keeps its recent brightening and if the darker cloud belts stay constant.

Mars and Saturn are low in the southern sky as seen from the northern hemisphere.

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Mars and Saturn 1/3 of the way up from the southern horizon. Sky and Telescope chart.

Venus and Mercury are close to the Sun in the sky. See this photo from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory of the sky near our Sun.

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The International Space Station returns to the dawn skies starting on the 6th.

On July 4th, at local noon in the Eastern United States, the Sun is furthest from the Earth for 2016.  Doesn’t that make you feel cooler?

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