Astrophotographer captures ‘clearest image ever’ of marble-like Jupiter in space

On Monday, Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 59 years.

It will still be some 367 million miles away from us, but since October 1963 astronomers haven’t had such a great opportunity to spot it in the night sky.

An astrophotographer has already taken advantage of this by capturing the gas giant in such extraordinary detail that it looks like a marble floating in space.

Andrew McCarthy’s stunning images show Jupiter lit up beautifully in the night sky, highlighting its red spot and cloud bands.

“This is one of the sharpest images I have produced of the gas giant and I am proud to share with you the sharpest photo I have ever taken of Jupiter so far,” said McCarthy, known to his followers as the Cosmic-Background. .

Mesmerizing: On Monday, Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 59 years. An astrophotographer took the opportunity to capture the gas giant in such extraordinary detail that it looks like a marble floating in space.

Stunning images by Andrew McCarthy show Jupiter lit up beautifully in the night sky, highlighting its red spot and cloud bands

Stunning images by Andrew McCarthy show Jupiter lit up beautifully in the night sky, highlighting its red spot and cloud bands

“This is one of the sharpest images I have produced of the gas giant and I am proud to share with you the sharpest photo I have ever taken of Jupiter so far,” said McCarthy, known to his followers as the Cosmic-Background.

JUPITER: THE BASICS

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system.

It is a huge ball of gas composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, with some heavy elements.

“Jupiter’s familiar stripes and swirls are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium,” NASA said.

“Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm larger than Earth that has been raging for hundreds of years.”

The planet is twice the size of all the other planets combined, and the Great Red Spot alone is big enough to hold the entire Earth inside.

A spacecraft – NASA’s Juno orbiter – is currently exploring this giant world.

Facts and figures

distance from the sun: 750 million km

orbital period: 12 years

Area: 61.42 billion km²

rays: 69,911 km

Mass: 1.898 × ​​10^27 kg (317.8 M⊕)

Length of day: 0d 9h 56m

Moons: 53 with formal designations; countless additional moonlets

“I spent about two hours taking photos of it in batches – every 90 seconds I captured about 7,500 individual images.

“The image output was then processed by color balancing and image sharpening, which I did while traveling.

“Seeing Jupiter through a telescope is part of what inspired me to follow this path and become an astrophotographer, and I never get tired of seeing it.”

McCarthy took thousands of images of Jupiter before stacking them to create the final effect.

To the naked eye, the planet looks like a bright star, but viewed through its 11-inch telescope and color camera, it came to life in incredible detail.

The astrophotographer managed to capture the images from his garden in Florence, Arizona earlier this week as Jupiter rose in the eastern sky just after sunset.

However, although he can see the details of the planet and its four Galilean moons through his telescope, he says he is never sure of the quality of the final images.

“I’m not able to accurately predict ‘visioning conditions’, that’s the limiting factor in astrophotography, despite weather forecasters doing their best,” McCarthy said.

“So when things in our atmosphere stabilize I know the picture will be much better than usual, I usually don’t know until I review all my data later to see how not the resulting image can be clean.”

He added: “The easiest time to capture such a detailed image of a planet is during opposition, or ‘closest approach’ to Earth, as the planet appears the largest and brightest. and I can use shorter exposure times, which allows me to capture more images quickly.

“The position in the sky is also much more ideal, as the planet rises at sunset and stays in the sky all night, so the main imagery occurs in the wee hours of the morning, when the atmosphere has tend to be a bit more stable.

“The results of each image were fed into software that maps the images onto a sphere to compensate for Jupiter’s rotation, allowing me to produce an even sharper image than usual.”

Jupiter makes its closest approach to Earth in 59 years on Monday, when the gas giant will directly oppose the sun as seen from Earth, an astronomical arrangement known as opposition.

Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth almost never coincides with opposition, meaning views this year will be “amazing”, according to NASA.

Although Jupiter is one of the few planets visible to the naked eye, the US space agency still recommends using some type of instrument.

“With good binoculars, the bandage (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” said Adam Kobelski, research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

McCarthy took thousands of images of Jupiter before stacking them to create the final effect of a series of images

McCarthy took thousands of images of Jupiter before stacking them to create the final effect of a series of images

The astrophotographer managed to capture the images from his garden in Florence, Arizona earlier this week as Jupiter rose in the eastern sky just after sunset.

The astrophotographer managed to capture the images from his garden in Florence, Arizona earlier this week as Jupiter rose in the eastern sky just after sunset.

Despite being at its closest point to Earth for 59 years on Monday, Jupiter will still be around 367 million kilometers away, while at its furthest point it is around 600 million kilometers from us. .

Despite being at its closest point to Earth for 59 years on Monday, Jupiter will still be around 367 million kilometers away, while at its furthest point it is around 600 million kilometers from us. .

It is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics. One of the main needs will be stable support for whatever system you use.

A 4-inch or larger telescope would allow observers to see the Great Red Spot and Jupiter’s bands in greater detail.

Kobelski said an ideal vantage point would be at high altitude in a dark, dry area.

“The view should be great for a few days before and after September 26,” I explained. So, take advantage of the good weather on both sides of this date to admire the view. Apart from the moon, it should be one of (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.

Despite being at its closest point to Earth for 59 years on Monday, Jupiter will still be about 367 million kilometers away, while at its furthest point it is about 600 million kilometers from us. .

Many followers of Mr McCarthy say his work rivals images taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the largest optical telescope in space capable of seeing distant or faint objects due to its resolution and high infrared sensitivity.

He disputes this, however, saying, “My images will never come close to what the JWST is capable of, both scientifically and aesthetically.” He also doesn’t have to deal with the atmosphere.

“In the case of Jupiter, it can reveal the ethereal ring system, which is frankly impossible from Earth with current consumer technology.

“But I know I can produce a better image of Jupiter, and I intend to!”

How to spot it: Jupiter's closest approach to Earth almost never coincides with opposition, meaning views this year will be

How to spot it: Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth almost never coincides with opposition, meaning views this year will be ‘amazing’, NASA says