Backyard Photography: Jupiter and its Moons

I am still working on getting the perfect photo of Jupiter with my small telescope. It may not get much better than this. This photo was taken a week ago. Or rather, I should say “these photos” were taken a week ago.

The photo of Jupiter itself is made up of six separate exposures overlaid with one and another in Photoshop. The seventh exposure is the four Galilean moons Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They were all on the same side of Jupiter as seen from Earth. The largest moon is Ganymede but I don’t know which of the others is which.

Clouds rolled in at about midnight and that was the end of that.

You should be able to see the moons with binoculars.

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14 Responses to Backyard Photography: Jupiter and its Moons

  1. R.D. Walker says:

    Eighteenth century scientists calculated the exact orbital speed of the moons and the exact times they would pass in front of or behind the planet. They noticed that when Jupiter and earth were very far apart – opposite sides of the sun – the times of the moon’s transit were delayed by up to 17 minutes.

    From this they realized that sight is not instantaneous and were able to deduce that light had speed and were even able to calculate the speed. Observational proof of the speed of light!

  2. R.D. Walker says:

    Jupiter has a very rapid rotational speed. A day on Jupiter is only about ten hours and a planet that large spins pretty fast to get a day that short. As a result, the planet actually is flatted like a spinning globe of Jello would be. You can actually see that flattening in my photo.

  3. R.D. Walker says:

    By the way, old Ben Franklin pictured above liked both science and politics. It’s okay. :-)

  4. notamobster says:

    I like politics and some sciences.

    Some, like evolution or the human genome just hold very little interest with me.

  5. R.D. Walker says:

    Mariners have always been able to easily calculate latitude. You could do it yourself with a yardstick, a protractor, a piece of string, a weight and a view of the North Star.

    Calculating longitude is much more difficult. It requires a very precise timekeeping device. Prior to the 19th century, the only timepieces accurate enough used a pendulum as a timing device. That just wouldn’t work inside of a rocking and rolling ship at sea.

    One solution was to prepare a book of tables of exact times for the transits of the moons of Jupiter. A navigator with a telescope could watch the moons and, at the exact moment of transit would know the precise time on the Prime Meridian.

    Armed with the precise time and along with other measurements using a sextant, longitude could be calculated with a sloppy, but functional, accuracy.

    Things got much, much easier with the invention of ship worthy chronographs.

  6. sortahwitte says:

    Your pictures are great. Back in the 50′s, an old couple next door showed me Saturn in a very old telescope. I remember seeing the bumps on each side which were the rings. I haven’t been without a telescope since.

  7. R.D. Walker says:

    I want to get photos of the rings of Saturn but I am too lazy to get up at 4:00 am. Especially now that it is frigid as all hell at that hour. Going to have to wait a few months I guess.

  8. notamobster says:

    See, RD, that info appeals to me as well.

    Navigation, meteorology, aerodynamics, fluid dynamics – all aeronautic sciences. It’s what I went to college for. Professional Aviation. :-)

    I’d love to be able to navigate by stars. I need to finish college.

  9. R.D. Walker says:

    Once you get into backyard astronomy, you start to recognize the sky, see its depth and understand its movements and when you look at it, it is almost like it has one of these painted on it…

    A quick glance tells you all you need to know.

  10. James says:

    Nota, no need to finish college to navigate. All you need is internet, Amazon, or a library card, and dedication. We are all rugged individuals, right?

  11. James says:

    Chapter 14: John Harrison’s ‘Ticking Box’ is the best recounting of the invention of the marine chronometer.
    I have been to Greenwich England and seen his clocks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Science-Analog-Circuit-Design-Engineers/dp/0750670622/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1352578020&sr=8-2&keywords=jim+williams+analog#reader_0750670622

  12. Rockheim says:

    That’s the problem with astrophotagraphy and even plain old astronomy though. The colder the better. the colder it is outside and the colder the atmosphere.. the better the viewing.. the fewer distorions and aberrations.. I absolutely love looking at Saturn.. It’s fantastic to just sit there and watch.. And know.. It’s not a picture.. It’s not a book. You are actually looking at.. and seeing.. AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PLANT!!!

  13. notamobster says:

    I don’t need college to learn. Most of what I know, I learned out of interest. Some was supplied in a classroom and much of it on my own.

    I need to finish college so I can have the paper to get a fucking job! The two thoughts just struck at the same time.

  14. James says:

    I see a touch of the Great Red Spot.
    That photo’s very good. About the best you’re going to get. Limited by pixel density.

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