Moon and Jupiter

StarDate: August 30, 2013

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.



It sounds like an adventure traveler’s perfect destination. Volcanoes that blast hot gas hundreds of miles high. An ocean that’s dozens of miles deep, shielded by a thick icy crust. A storm with brilliant red clouds where winds blow at hundreds of miles an hour. Oh, and don’t forget the deadly radiation.

It’ll be a while before anyone can actually visit, though. That’s because the destination is Jupiter and its system of giant moons. Jupiter stands to the left of our own Moon at first light tomorrow, and looks like a brilliant star. Its largest moons are visible through binoculars.

Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system. Its most prominent feature is the Great Red Spot — a hurricane-like storm that’s twice as wide as Earth.

Jupiter’s four largest moons are worlds in their own right. The list includes Europa, which may be the best place to look for life beyond Earth — a deep ocean packed with the ingredients for life.

An even bigger source of energy is on the moon Io. Its interior is extremely hot. Pockets of gas and molten rock blast onto the surface through giant volcanoes, which pockmark the entire moon.

Some of the volcanic material escapes into space, forming a doughnut around Jupiter. It traps radiation from the Sun, creating a danger zone — a lethal belt of radiation. So it’ll take good shielding for future adventures to visit the wonders of the Jovian system.

More about Jupiter and the Moon tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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

The one constant in the Universe: StarDate magazine

FacebookTwitterYouTube

©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory