You are here: Home News Dazzling Jupiter – Jewel of the summer night sky

 Members and donors are our most important source of support. 

Donate Button
Membership button
 Thank you

Sign up for 



Goodsearch button 


Write a review of  
Explorit Science Center   

on Trip Advisor Logo 




Dazzling Jupiter – Jewel of the summer night sky

This article appeared in the 6/14/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Dazzling Jupiter – Jewel of the summer night sky

Jupiter as seen by the space probe "Cassini". Photo credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Dazzling Jupiter – Jewel of the summer night sky



by Vinita Domier

Davis Astronomy Club



Jupiter is the most massive and biggest of the solar system planets and fifth in order from the sun. The next few months is optimum for viewing as it just passed opposition on Monday, June 10. Shining brightly, Jupiter is easily observable with the naked eye from dusk to dawn and outshines all objects except the moon in the summer night sky.


At opposition, an outer planet (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, or Neptune) is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. At this alignment, the planet rises in the east opposite to the setting sun in the west, is visible all night, and sets in the west opposite to the rising sun in the east. The planet also appears biggest and brightest as it is closest to earth in distance during an opposition.


Jupiter is a gaseous giant 2.5 times heavier than all the other planets combined. Its atmosphere is composed of ~90% hydrogen and ~10% helium by volume, and it has a solid core surrounded by metallic liquid hydrogen. Viewing Jupiter with a small telescope reveals horizontal cloud bands on its surface and up to four of its biggest moons aligned with the planet’s equator. A larger telescope is required to see the Great Red Spot.


The prominent latitudinal bands, divided into brighter zones and darker belts, are visible in Jupiter’s clouds. Hued shades of orange/brown due to the presence of ammonia ice crystals, they are caused by strong winds moving in opposite directions in the upper 30 miles of the planet’s atmosphere. Another prominent surface feature, the oval-shaped Great Red Spot, is a giant reddish-hued hurricane that has been continuously raging in the southern hemisphere for at least 350 years. Recent observations indicate that the storm has shrunk to half its size in the last century.


There are at least 79 known moons orbiting planet Jupiter. In 1610, Galileo discovered the largest four moons of Jupiter, collectively called the Galilean satellites. Io is the only other solar system body, besides earth, where active volcanoes have been observed. Europa may have liquid water under its cracked icy surface. Ganymede and Callisto are the largest and  third-largest moons in our solar system, respectively.


Jupiter has the shortest day of all the planets, spinning on its axis in about 10 earth-hours at its equator. This rapid rotation causes a noticeable bulge in Jupiter’s equatorial region and results in a strong magnetosphere surrounding the planet. One Jupiter year is equivalent to 11.9 earth-years. Opposition repeats every 13 months when the sun and Jupiter are aligned on either side of the earth.


Everyone is invited to the Saturday, June 15meeting of the Davis Astronomy Club at Explorit Science Center (3141 5thStreet, Davis) starting at 7:30pm. All ages are welcome to attend the featured presentation indoors, followed by the star party outdoors where we will observe Jupiter and its largest moons.




Explorit's coming events:

·      NEW THIS SUMMER-Check out the new evening teen camp July 8 – 12 "The Stars and Our Night Sky" for ages 12-16 yrs. Learn about the stars, planets, moons, black holes and other phenomenon in the sky. Explore the use of various telescopes and learn to identify stars and planets.

·       Explorit is still seeking volunteers for Woodland camps.  Must be 14 years or older.  Must provide your own transportation.  Apply at

  • Visit Explorit's latest exhibition, Earth Explorations. Explorit'sExploration Galleryis open to the public every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free.
  • Become a membership to Explorit.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership online call Explorit at 530-756-0191.



Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or "like" us on Facebook at

Document Actions
Personal tools