Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Evening Star

For the past two nights, since daylight savings time 
prompted us all to "fall back," I have come home in the dark.
Ordinarily, I would not enjoy this, 
except that the most lovely silvery slice of the moon has filled the night sky.
And the moon isn't alone. 
Nearby is a huge  sparkling star--Venus, to be exact.
You can't miss its sparkle and light.

But in early November, the real "star" of the show will be Jupiter.
It rises in the sky later in the evening.
If you have a telescope, you should be able to see the 4 moons of Jupiter,
the ones that Galileo discovered with his handcrafted telescope:
Ganymede, (named for a beautiful boy who was the cup bearer of the gods)
Color image of Ganymede

Callisto, (a nymph transformed into a bear and cast as a star in the sky)

 Europa (a princess kidnapped by Zeus),

 and Io (a princess loved by Zeus).
Io Photo: Pearson Education, Inc.

According to NASA, Io is covered in a cloud of sulphur,
which accounts for its rainbow of colors.
Europa is all ice. 
Ganymede is the biggest and generates its own magnetic field.
And Callisto? Callisto is pocked with craters.

NASA says there are as many as 67 moons of Jupiter, 
some even closer to Jupiter than Io.
A night sky full of shining moons.
Think of the shadows they would cast on a mid-autumn night.
I can't imagine what that might look like,
but it would be pretty exciting to find out.

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