| Aug 14, 2019

Jupiter and Saturn were the ‘stars’ of the show Saturday and Sunday nights at the Dark Skies Preserve observation pad in Fernleigh.

Guy Nason, one of the Sky Pad’s astronomers-in-residence, said that at 700 million kilometres away right now, Jupiter is almost as close as it gets (it was 640,962,549 on June 12 but is usually almost 800 million kilometers away).

“Jupiter and Saturn are the fifth and sixth planets in the solar system and the two largest,” he said.

Along with Jupiter, its four Galilean moons (Ganymede, Europa, Io and Callisto) are also visible, as is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which is believed to be a giant storm.

“The Red Spot is shrinking,” Nason said. “When I got into this, you could fit three Earths into it.

“Now it’s only one.”

He said both planets have been known since antiquity, hence their names (after Roman gods)

“Saturn is easily the most impressive (as seen through a telescope) in the night sky (because of its rings),” he said. “It’s roughly twice as far away as Jupiter.

“You can see the A, B & C rings.”

Other items of interest on the menu last weekend were a flyby of the International Space Station and the presence of globular cluster NGC 6235 near Jupiter.

About 30 people were there at Saturday night’s peak, including visitors from Ottawa and Toronto.

The sky pad is open to the public most nights for observation. The next organized event is Aug. 31/Sept. 1 when the theme will be Star Names and Meanings. Jupiter’s Red Spot should be visible all evening on the 31st.

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