Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2003 February 27
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When Moons and Shadows Dance
Credit & Copyright: Wes Higgins

Explanation: It's no wonder Jupiter is a favorite target for even modest earthbound telescopes. The most massive planet in the solar system with four of the largest moons also boasts the famous Great Red Spot, a giant hurricane-like storm system over three hundred years old. Recorded on December 15, 2002 between 7:19 and 8:40 UT, over a thousand digital images were processed and stacked to create this spectacular 21 frame animation of the Jovian system. South is up and as the Great Red Spot tracks across the face of Jupiter, innermost Galilean moon Io enters the scene at the far right. Io occults (passes in front of) the edge of the more sedately orbiting Ganymede with Io's shadow moving quickly across the gas giant's cloud tops, just below the Red Spot. While the moon Callisto is outside the field of view, its large, dark shadow is also visible crossing the Jovian disk at the upper left. Viewed from Earth, the orbits of the Galilean moons presently lie nearly edge-on, offering many chances to observe similar dances of Jupiter's moons.

Tomorrow's picture: When Fur Flys

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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