Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, reaches opposition on 10 June in the constellation of Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer) and is visible low in the southern sky of the UK through the night. Observers with small to medium aperture telescopes can see a number of shadow transits of Jupiter’s Galilean moons and view the planet’s Great Red Spot throughout June.
Jupiter has passed opposition, but the solar system’s largest planet is still putting on a magnificent show in the southern sky at dusk. Backyard telescopes readily reveal its Great Red Spot storm feature and four main moons constantly playing tag. Here’s our full guide to Jovian events visible from the UK in June.
With the opposition of Jupiter occurring on 9 May, now is the time to ensure that your telescope is clean and collimated (aligned) to deliver the sharpest images of the solar system’s largest planet at its best. We tell you when and how to view Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and a wealth of Galilean moon phenomena throughout May 2018.
Jupiter now lies highest in the UK sky at sunset, but the Solar System’s largest planet and its four bright Galilean moons still provide plenty of observable events during June, as we reveal. If you’re uncertain which evening ‘star’ is Jupiter, the Moon conveniently passes by on the night of 3—4 June, a time when European skywatchers can also see the Moon occult (hide) bright double star Porrima.
A team of scientists has documented atmospheric changes on Io, Jupiter’s volcanically active satellite, as the giant planet casts its shadow over the moon during daily eclipses. Io’s thin atmosphere collapses as the sulfur dioxide gas emitted from volcanoes freezes when shaded by Jupiter. The atmosphere reforms when Io moves out of eclipse and the ice sublimates.
The impact of a small comet or asteroid on Jupiter observed by European amateur astronomers on 17 March has heightened interest in the solar system’s largest planet. While such an event is uncommon, Jupiter and its family of four bright Galilean moons provide a wealth of other interesting phenomena to view with small telescopes during April.
Although thick cloud in parts of Indonesia spoiled the view for some along the path of totality, tens of millions more were greeted to spectacular views of the 9 March total solar eclipse. NASA, in partnership with the Exploratorium Science Center, hosted live coverage of the event from the coral island of Woleai in the Pacific Ocean.