The title for this post comes from one of the best episodes of the Simpsons “Marge vs. the Monorail”. Why is this a favorite episode, you may ask? Well, it was written by Conan O’brien, has a song performed by Phil Hartman and the above mentioned quote comes from none other than a very famous passenger on the monorail, Mr. Leonard Nimoy! Aside from all that “awesomeness,” it also is a great way to describe the celestial occurrence witnessed just a few nights ago. The transit of Jupiter and one of her moons!
On September 20th of this year, Jupiter made its closest approach to Earth in decades. The following night, I decided to take the scope out after a long days work to take a peak. While it was hard to discern any change in size from its closeness, the views of Jupiter rarely disappoint and when they do it is because of the turbulent atmosphere distorting the image, similar to a haze of heat rising from a roof on a hot summer day. Putting in the 25mm eyepiece revealed the great Galilean moons of Jupiter with one in-particular being very close, nearly on top of the gaseous giant planet.
After going in and coming back out a half hour or so later, I pushed the magnification up to 120X and took another look at Jupiter. The view was very sharp, with brief seconds of near perfect viewing here and there. Something was different about Jupiter this time, however. At first, I thought I was viewing a very dark cloud on its surface until it hit me: the moon that was previously near the very edge of Jupiter had moved in front of her and was now casting a very small nearly pen dot black circle on the surface of the planet. The moon, which I later found out was Europa, looked as though someone had cut a very small hole on Jupiter’s surface. I came out about a half hour after the inital sighting and the small hole had moved to a new location, showing how fast Jupiter and her moons orbit each other creating the incredible transits.
Star Log: September 21, 2010