Planet Jupiter and the Meteor Shower

Jupiter and Saturn are at opposition this month. That is when they are opposite the Sun making them very bright and easy to see. Saturn reached its opposition on Aug. 1-2, and Jupiter reaches its opposition on Aug. 19-20. They are in the SE early evening, high up around midnight, and low in the west near sunrise.

Venus blazes in the western sky at dusk. It will be easy to see all three planets as the morning progresses. What is interesting about this month is that it has the only Friday the 13ththis year. This month Jupiter makes its closest and brightest approach of the year.  Even though it reaches opposition on the 19th, it will be very bright 10 days before and after that time.

The 1stquarter moon is on the 15thand the full moon is on the 22nd, but Jupiter is so bright that it will be highly visible. Jupiter's entire face is covered with reddish brown belts and bright zones of various hues. They run parallel to the planet's equator.  With binoculars you should be able to see its surface.

It has a lot of bright moons, but there are four bright ones that are fun to observe. The main moons are Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. Obviously, a telescope will really let you look at them, but with binoculars you should be able to see them too.

Jupiter is an amazing planet. It is our largest planet and is 2ndonly to the Sun in size mass. It is 11 times the diameter of Earth, and almost 2.5 times the combined mass of the other seven planets in our Solar System. Now that is huge! Plus, it has an immense gravity that is collected a lot of moons.

It has a 12-year orbit around the Sun, and its distance varies since it is not a complete circle. Depending on its solar rotation it can be 460 to 507 million miles from the Sun. Its atmosphere consists mainly of hydrogen and helium with trace amounts of methane. Its body gradually changes from gaseous at its surface to liquid at its interior. It is an interesting planet, and some day people will visit it to explore.

Do not forget that the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks tonight. So go out and explore them. Also, the Silver Thread Studio Tour is this Saturday from 9-5. There are 19 artists, two of which are in South Fork including me. So come out and have fun. Pick up maps and the Visitor Centers in South Fork, Creede and at Bristol.