Jupiter's fall arrival

October 6, 2011

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Resembling a magnificently bright star rising in the east just after dark, the colossal planet Jupiter has become a noticeable feature this fall.  This gaseous giant (almost 11 times the size of Earth) is the second brightest planet behind Venus, making it a favorite among telescopic users.  Even a relatively small telescope can reveal some of its cloudy bands as well as all or some of its four Galilean Moons.  In all, Jupiter has 63 moons but most are too small to view through a telescope.  

Last August, the new Jupiter-bound spacecraft, Juno, was launched from Cape Canaveral and will finally arrive at its destination in 2016.  Juno is the first spacecraft dedicated to the study of Jupiter since the Galileo probe and will make detailed observations of the planet's atmosphere, gravity field, and magnetic field.  

Take some this fall to look up and see Earth's biggest planetary neighbor.

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