Chris is going to love this – on a whim I decided to check and see if any planets were in sight right now, and as it turns out Jupiter recently rose above the horizon (at around 10:30pm eastern daylight time) so I figured I’d check it out. Around 11:15, it was high enough out of the trees that I could get a decent look with the telescope, and sure enough – Jupiter!
There wasn’t much to see at first. Just a round orange-ish disk, but it was low in the sky, still, and that means more air for the light to travel through, thus less detail. Nonetheless, it was a huge rush just to be able to see it at all, and also to know what I’m looking at! I’ve been doing a lot of reading on how to interpret sky charts, and it’s paying off!
I kept looking, because I read that the longer you look, the more detail you see – but I also kept looking because I was so enthralled! Another planet!
I saw something else as well. At first, I thought that it was some sort of lens flare effect, but the more I looked, the more I became convinced: I was seeing the four Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto! None of them looked any more than just points of light, but there they were, all in the same plane but slightly offset from each other. To verify this I looked for a site that could show me the moons’ current positions, and I was right – they were just as I saw!
This is the first time that I have ever, with my own two eyes, seen anything other than stars and the moon. The excitement I felt when I first brought the planet into focus was worth the blood I paid to the mosquitoes, but spotting the moons! I hadn’t expected that!