Jupiter at Opposition

StarDate: December 1, 2012

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If you’re feeling a bit jovial today, perhaps it’s related to the sky.

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is putting in its best appearance of the year. It rises around sunset, scoots high across the sky during the night, and sets around sunrise. And you won’t have any trouble finding it; until Venus peeks into view shortly before dawn, Jupiter will be the brightest point of light in the entire sky.

To ancient skywatchers, the planets were more than just bright, moving points of light in the night — they were the embodiments of the gods. Jupiter was the king of the Roman gods. He was also known as Jove, and that’s the source of an old exclamation — “By Jove!”

Each planet was associated with a long list of objects or characteristics, such as colors, metals, and precious gems. Jupiter was associated with the color blue, the metal tin, and with sapphires.

Each planet was also associated with human characteristics or behaviors. This association was part of the attempt to relate the orderly motions of the heavens to the cycles of life on Earth. Jupiter was thought to make the people born under its influence feel jolly or joyful — or using Jupiter’s other name, Jove, it made people “jovial.”

So spend a little time looking at Jupiter as it lords over the sky the next few nights, by Jove, and you’ll almost certainly come away feeling jovial yourself.

We’ll have more about Jupiter tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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