The largest planet in our Solar System is Jupiter and he has 67 moons (some of them even with water oceans on them!) – now if that is not an exciting planet! Jupiter with his great gravity shields Earth from asteroids coming our way.
Jupiter looks spectacular when you watch it with a telescope, with it’s distinct two cloud bands and the big red spot, which is actually a giant cyclone storm (3 times bigger than earth!)
Back in 1994, an incredible spectacle unfolded in that part of the solar system. An inbound comet was torn apart by Jupiter’s immense gravitational pull. 20 fragments separated into a line of beads, each with its own cometary tail. While that in itself was spectacular, Jupiter wasn’t finished with the comet. The immense planet pulled the comet in, and all 20 fragments plummeted into Jupiter’s atmosphere and detonated in the biggest explosions seen in recorded history. And they left their mark. Visible for weeks afterward, the dark impact blotches were visible in backyard telecopes. That one event gave nations across the world pause for thought. What if such en event had happened to Earth instead of Jupiter? In all probablity, it would have been an extinction level event.
So it’s fair to say that Jupiter and its environs is one pretty interesting place. But knowing what to look for, and when, is key to making the most of any Jovian observing experience.
And that’s what Jupsat Pro does for you. It models the positions of Jupiter’s four largest satellites so you’ll always know where they are in relation to Jupiter and each other. It’ll also tell you when the satellites cross in front of Jupiter, when the satellite shadows cross the planet and when the satellites are hidden behind Jupiter. A satellite track diagram shows how the satellites interact over the course of a month. And you can animate the Jovian system forwards and backwards so you can see how everything interacts (you can even set the speed).
People like looking at the Great Red Spot, especially when you consider its size. Jupsat Pro calculates when the Spot crosses the center of Jupiter (the best observing opportunity) and produces a table of times for the month you’re interested in. And when you animate the display, the Great Red Spot is also shown rotating on Jupiter.
It should be mentioned that Jupsat Pro shows data for the time and date you select or when an animation is running. You can even zoom in and out to get the best view of what’s happening. Satellite information is color-coded so you can easily see when satellites are crossing in front of or behind Jupiter. If you want close-up views of the Jupiter or its satellites, you can have them too.
Not all telescopes are the same and so they don’t all show the same view. Some flip the view left to right; some upside down; and others still, a combination of both. Whatever telescope you have access to, Jupsat Pro will simulate the view through that ‘scope. It makes everything so much easier.
Knowing when Jupiter is up in the sky is also important. And Jupsat Pro will tell you that if you tell it where you live.
So is that everything in Jupsat Pro? No, not quite. You can watch NASA TV live from within the software (but you do need to be online!). Or you can download all the latest news about Jupiter and general astronomy news as well. There are many links to Jupiter-related sites and resources online, for example NASA’s PhotoJournal compiled from the various space probes sent to or past Jupiter, or how to pick up radio signals from Jupiter.
All in all, there’s no better astronomy software package purely dedicated to the largest planet in the Solar System. Start exploring the dynamic worlds of Jupiter and its amazing satellites.
Gary Nugent has been creating astronomy software applications for over 10 years and has run the popular Night Sky Observer website during that time.