Star Light, Star Bright… Oops, That’s Not a Star!

You know the old rhyme “Star Light, Star Bright. First Star I See Tonight.” But what if the first “star” you saw, wasn’t?

That would be the case if you were looking to the southeast just after 11pm (EDT) these days. You would see a brilliant white “star” above the SE horizon, easily outshining everything else in the sky. You might even think at first glace it was an airplane’s landing lights. No, what you are seeing is the planet Jupiter.

Apart from Venus, Jupiter is the brightest planet in out sky. And it should be, considering Jupiter is the solar system’s “King of the Planets.” Only the Sun is larger than Jupiter in our solar system.

Jupiter is currently in the constellation Sagittarius, and makes a wonderful showpiece to the stars surrounding the planet in the sky. When you are looking towards Sagittarius, you are looking towards the center of our Galaxy.

Here are some facts about Jupiter:

  • Jupiter is five times as distant from the Sun as the Earth.
  • You could fit over 1000 Earths inside Jupiter.
  • It takes Jupiter nearly twelve (Earth) years to orbit the Sun once.
  • Jupiter has sixty-three moons.
  • One “day” on Jupiter is only ten hours.
  • If you weighed 100 lbs on Earth, on Jupiter you would weigh 214.
  • Jupiter is extremely large, but it is not as dense as the Earth.

Jupiter is going to dominate the night skies for the rest of the year, rising earlier and earlier each evening. In fact, on July 9th, Jupiter will be at a point in its orbit called “opposition” and will rise at sunset. It is “opposite” the Sun from Earth, so we see it all night long.

Jupiter will also be one of the featured objects at Public Nights at the James C. Veen Observatory this year. It’s an amazing sight in telescopes.

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