The wonder of the heavens for many observers falls into distance categories: the local solar system neighborhood, the galactic neighborhood, and outside the galaxy. For this time of year in 2010 the largest planet and brightest object outside earth’s orbit begins to rise in the east: the planet Jupiter. The complexity and variation among the planets and their moons attest to the greatness of our God. He said his heavens were good when he created them, but their positions and movements were also meant to be observed and appreciated. They show dramatic features that have become more obvious as satellites have been sent by many of them, but nothing is quite as exciting as seeing them yourself. Jupiter has long been a favorite for backyard observers because you can see some planetary detail and the largest of the moons with modest instruments. So the sketch is a simple one. There are many better sketches and many contain more detail, but this was my opportunity to observe the rising gas giant on a hazy summer night. As is our practice when we teach teachers to observe the created heavens, you will find a some text that gives the local conditions, time, equipment, and magnification. It is such a privilege to observe that I wanted to include a key portion of the Genesis scripture about the creation of the heavens.
If you are a newcomer to the skies, if you step outside about 2 hours after sunset, Jupiter is the brightest object rising in the east. With a binocular you can see it is not a star but a disk. With a small telescope you will see its moons, which change position rapidly from one day to the next. If you have at least a few inches of aperture with your instrument, you can begin to see the bands in the lethal and fast-moving atmosphere. But before you are done, make a brief sketch and some notes….and be thankful to be able to observe from a livable planet but see the local neighborhood!
If you have opportunity, go to the inspiration page (top left story as of September 1, 2010) at www.christworksministries.org to see an observation sketch and discussion about the Swan Nebula (M17). About the same time the Jupiter observation (above) was made, my wife and I observed M17 again, which is in the low southern skies at this time of year. Like Jupiter, the object has color and is very exciting to observe. Roland