Christmas Sky Show

Tuesday evening, after you've had Christmas dinner with the family, go outside set up the telescope if you have one. Jupiter and the moon are having a Christmas conjunction.

For anyone who gets a telescope for Christmas, the timing is perfect. Jupiter and the Moon are among the most satisfying targets for backyard optics. A quick sweep of the telescope from Jupiter to the Moon and back again will reveal Jupiter's storms and cloud belts, the Moon's mountains and impact craters, and of course the four Galilean satellites circling the giant planet like a miniature solar system.

Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot will also be on display--and it is worth a look. Astronomers recently announced that the enormous swirling storm, twice as wide as the planet Earth, is "spinning up."

Actually, explains planetary scientist Glenn Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "the Red Spot is shrinking." He likens it to "the iconic picture of a figure skater pulling her arms in to spin faster. As the size contracts, the spin rate increases."  

Even if you don't have a telescope, you'll still be able to see Jupiter, although not the red spot. Link

(Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)


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