Getting started with astronomy: Looking for Jupiter in the sky

In this wide-field view, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope sees Jupiter with its faint rings

In this wide-field view, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope sees Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two tiny moons called Amalthea and Adrastea. This is a composite image from Webb’s NIRCam instrument (two filters) and was acquired on 27 July 2022. - Credit: NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt

Alan Willison, chairman of Hertford Astronomy Group, offers his tips on skygazing in his monthly column on how to get started in astronomy.

Hertford Astronomy Group

You can discover more about Hertford Astronomy Group at a public demonstration event in the Howard Centre in Welwyn Garden City on Saturday. September 10. - Credit: Hertford Astronomy Group

Space – a new era begins

September is often the time that many people start new hobbies.

Whether it is because it is the start of the new academic year or just something that happens in autumn, it is often the time that astronomy becomes a bit more interesting to some people.

I had a fascinating email from a lady who told me that she had had to get up in the night to feed her baby and was startled by a bright light in the sky and wondered what it could be.  

The same thing happened the next night, so she got in contact with me to ask about it.

My reply was to ask what was the approximate time, direction and altitude of this object.

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I was delighted to get a very detailed reply giving the information asked for. Consulting my astronomy software Stellarium (free to download) we came to the conclusion that it was Jupiter.

In this wide-field view, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope sees Jupiter with its faint rings

In this wide-field view, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope sees Jupiter with its faint rings, which are a million times fainter than the planet, and two tiny moons called Amalthea and Adrastea. This is a composite image from Webb’s NIRCam instrument (two filters) and was acquired on 27 July 2022. - Credit: NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt

Now the really good thing about Jupiter is that it will be visible in the evening sky right now and will be until March next year.  

In the early evening look towards the east and it will be the brightest thing in the sky (other than the Moon).  

Over the months to March it will change its position and by then will be more in the south-west area.

However, put a note in your diary or on your calendar for March 2 when Jupiter will appear to be very close to Venus which, by then, will be the brighter of the two objects.  

This will be a great photo opportunity, so if you are thinking about taking up astrophotography then start getting yourself prepared.

Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and Steve Heliczer from his back garden in Cuffley

Jupiter pictured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on the left and by Steve Heliczer from his back garden in Cuffley on the right. - Credit: NASA, ESA, Jupiter ERS Team, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) / Steve Heliczer

We have two images of Jupiter to show you. One is from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – that’s the one that appears bluish green – and the other is from Steve Heliczer’s back garden in Cuffley – that’s the beigey-brown one.  

They are different in colour because the JWST takes its photos in the infra-red wavelengths and Steve’s takes them in the optical wavelengths.  

Those from the JWST have to be coloured so that we can see them.  

The detail on both is astonishing but even more so when you realise that Steve’s cost about $10 billion less than the JWST one.

Hertford Astronomy Group

Hertford Astronomy Group - Credit: Hertford Astronomy Group

Anyway, getting back to the new start theme, our club, the Hertford Astronomy Group, is holding a public demonstration event in the Howard Centre in Welwyn Garden City on Saturday. September 10.  

We will be there all day in the area near Boots and WH Smith. You will be able to chat with local people who have an interest in astronomy and also get a chance to have a look through a telescope or two.

All ages are welcome and you can ask about our local club and what it is like to be a member.

I am sure that you will find us a very down to earth group and look forward to meeting you.
 

Photo of the month: The Bubble Nebula

Bubble Nebula

Bubble Nebula - Credit: Kevan Noble

The Bubble Nebula. Seven light years across – 7,100 light years from Earth and resides in the constellation Cassiopeia.

The seething star forming this nebula is 45 times more massive than our Sun.

Gas on the star gets so hot that it escapes away into space as a "stellar wind" moving at over four million miles per hour.

This outflow sweeps up the cold, interstellar gas in front of it, forming the outer edge of the bubble, much like a snowplough piles up snow in front of it as it moves forward.

To understand the scale of this nebula, the Voyager II space probe would take approximately 150,000 years to travel from one side to the other of the bubble.

Taken from my back garden in Waltham Abbey, August 2022 – Kevan Noble.