The Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter’s poles continues to send back jaw-dropping views of the giant planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including this down-the-throat look into a 2,000-kilometre-wide (1,200 miles) cyclonic storm at 49 degrees north latitude. Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, but some of the colour in the clouds seen here may be the result of sulphur and phosphorus gases rising from the warmer interior. Citizen-scientist Kevin M. Gill processed this image, captured by the Junocam instrument on 3 November at an altitude of about 8,500 kilometres (5,300 miles) during Juno’s 23rd close flyby.
Contradicting the long-standing idea that large Jupiter-mass planets take a minimum of 10 million years to form, astronomers have just announced the discovery of a giant planet in close orbit around a 2 million-year-old star that still retains a disc of circumstellar gas and dust. CI Tau b is at least eight times larger than Jupiter and 450 light-years from Earth.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to ensure that your telescope is clean and collimated (aligned) to deliver the sharpest images of planet Jupiter at its best. We tell you the optimal UK times to view the largest planet’s Great Red Spot and multiple shadow transits from its Galilean moons.
Set your alarm for 6am GMT if you wish to see three naked-eye planets in the UK dawn sky this week. Find a location that offers an unobstructed view of the horizon from southeast to south and let the waning Moon be your guide to locating Jupiter, Mars and Saturn on successive mornings from 7 to 11 February.