Jupiter…is always a joy to look at. Even through nothing more powerful than a good pair of binoculars. Jupiter’s four Galilean moons should be visible, their positions changing noticeably from one night to the next. The smallest telescope reveals features on Jupiter’s cloud tops, including two dark bands straddling the equator. Through larger telescopes, other dark belts and bright zones appear, as well as exciting detail within the belts.
The best way to learn about Jupiter through observation is to draw it. Observers use a soft, 2B pencil and a dim white flashlight so that they can see what they are committing to paper. Before beginning to draw, they watch the planet for a few minutes to get familiar with the shapes and details of its belts and zones. Since Jupiter rotates very quickly - the whole planet goes once around in less than 10 hours - observers complete the basic outline of their drawings in about a quarter hour, filling in the details later.
The experience of drawing this planet brings to mind the fact that Jupiter is big. It is a planet much larger than Earth and some 400 to 600 million miles from us.
While you look at Jupiter’s moons, consider how they helped persuade Galileo that the Earth was not the center of the universe, and remember that the idea was so threatening to that era’s powerful religious politics that he was forced to recant on pain of torture. By taking us back to an earlier, darker time in our history, Galileo’s moons remind us not to be too attached to the accepted wisdom of our own age.
David H. Levy; author, Impact Jupiter: The Crash Of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9; comet co-discoverer (image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
Amateur Astronomers: When using a “dim flashlight”, make sure to use filtered red light, via LED or DIY.
Everyone: This “darker time in our history” persists to this day. We may not have astronomers being physically tortured; no, the torture comes from our (predominantly misinformed) society’s continual persistence in ‘tolerating’ the ‘rights’ of religious influence in politics and education.
This world (and our species) deserves minds capable of critical thinking fueled by an insatiable curiosity without religious influence governed at the helm by scientifically illiterate people who claim to have a neurological two-way radio with the creator of the universe/s.
Galileo would be proud of our achievements, but more steadfast than we in his commitment to the true nature of the physical world via the scientific method and meticulous observation, to which religious “knowledge” have produced no such observations, progressions or achievements toward our understanding of the universe, led by the literal interpretation of outdated Biblical text, in order to give credit to a creator or reason yet to be named by science itself, upon which the ‘rights’ of religious organizations are allowed to exploit their superimposition of the divine plan unto our current understandings of the cosmos, without aiding in any of the countless hours of scrupulous investigation themselves.
As a father and a student of life, my parenting efforts have been led by a simple motive: teach my child (and others) how to think, not what to think. All of us the world over will benefit by a society and human civilization led by this principle as well.