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Find Jupiter in the Sky: A Definite Challenge!

Document, detail or illustrate your experiences and we'll post them online

Sure, a super high-tech satellite can get you drop-dead closeup views of Jupiter, its moons, and its magnetosphere--but you can see Jupiter itself using just your eyes. If you can also find a pair of binoculars, you may even be able to see Jupiter's distinctive coloring and the four Galilean satellites. We'll tell you when and where to look in the sky to see the largest planet in the solar system, and then we'll have space for you to post your observation reports for comparison with other students around the country. This activity encourages students to find Jupiter in the sky, and describe the process they use as well as the experiences they have if they find it. The experiences, in whatever form, will be posted online for all to see.

Depending on your location, Jupiter will be either difficult or very difficult to find because of its closeness to the sun during the OFJ97 project. However you still should be able to find it, or at least document your experiences!

How to Find Jupiter

Generally, Jupiter will rise in the southeast portion of the sky and appear to travel southward across the sky (northward in the southern hemisphere). Jupiter is fairly large and visible in the sky just before sunrise each morning.

The times given below are for the Los Angeles area; times will vary depending on your exact location (generally later if your location is north of Los Angeles, and earlier if south of Los Angeles). You do not have to adjust to your time zone.
Date Jupiter Rises Sun Rises
2/17 5:29AM PST 6:35AM PST
2/24 5:07AM PST 6:27AM PST
3/3 4:44AM PST 6:19AM PST
3/10 4:21AM PST 6:10AM PST
3/17 3:59AM PST 6:00AM PST
3/24 3:35AM PST 5:51AM PST
3/31 3:12AM PST 5:41AM PST
4/7 2:48AM PST 5:32AM PST

Unfortunately, because Jupiter and the Sun are quite close right now, and will be for all of OFJ97, seeing it before the sunlight begins to creep in can be difficult. But if you do get up when it is still completely dark out - - watch the southeastern part of the sky, and look for a bright, large object. If you're familiar with the Copernicus constellation, Jupiter will be very near it as it rises.

Venus also rises at about the same time as Jupiter. However, Jupiter will be higher in the sky and not as bright as Venus.

What to use:
You should have no problems seeing Jupiter using only your eyes. Using binoculars may allow you to see banding on the planet, and Jupiter's moons, which will have the appearance of faint stars close to the planet. A telescope is not necessary (though a good one, and someone who knows how to find objects in the sky, is always welcome). Binoculars, with their wider field of view, are far easier to use, and observing from a dark area will also help (e.g. a dark backyard)

We know that it will be very difficult to find Jupiter and that is why we are interested in hearing your experiences as well as if you actually find it. So please encourage your students, if they are going to try and see Jupiter, to write down what they do, the process, and what they see.

How to Find the Four Galilean Satellites

We have available three graphics that show the relative position of the Galilean Satellites with respect to Jupiter. Jupiter itself is shown as a double bar in the center of the plots. The satellites (I = Io, II = Europa, III = Ganymede, and IV = Callisto) are shown in their relative positions East to West. You can use these plots to help identify the satellites.

Interesting things to look out for: on some nights, the satellites stay pretty much in a certain order, while on other nights, they can be seen moving from one side of Jupiter to the other.

Jupiter has many more moons, but these are the easiest to find.

The date is given in Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time), so you will need to adjust to your time zone accordingly. For example, Pacific Standard Time is 8 hours behind Greenwich, so the time 00:00 on 2/23 (which is to say, midnight at the start of February 23) corresponds to 4:00 PM PST on 2/22. If you are looking at Jupiter at around 5:00 AM in your local time in North or South America, that will correspond to (very roughly) 12:00 noon UT, halfway through a "day" on the charts.

February 17 - March 5, 1997
March 5 - March 21, 1997
March 21 - April 7, 1997

Instructions for submitting your work

Other Online Sources of Information

Sky and Telescope's Weekly Planet Roundup and Sky at a Glance provide an overview of what's up in the sky when.

The Galileo Project's Where Can I See Jupiter Tonight? gives a sky chart for Jupiter, indicating rise and set times and locations.



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