Planets and Moons

The Planet Jupiter from the FIU campus

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Image of Jupiter taken on June 14, 2017 with the FIU 24-inch telescope by Riya Gandhi. Over 175 images were made in four filters. She reduced the images and then selected the best ones in each filter and stacked them. Then the different colored filters were combined to make this full color image of the largest planet in our solar system: The Planet Jupiter. The two small moons are Callisto and Ganymede.

Copernicus Crater on the Moon

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The picture shows the Copernicus crater on the Moon. The ring of Copernicus crater has a diameter of about 93 km and a depth of about 3800m. The central mountains are about 1200m high. Lunar north is toward the upper left corner of the image. The mountainous region to the left of the crater are the Carpatus mountains with a height of 1000 - 2000m. The image was made through with an old Celestron C8 (1980) telescope F.l. = 2000mm) with a ASI 120MM-S camera. Two hundred and fifteen images, each with an exposure time of 1ms, were stacked in specialized software to produce the final high resolution image.

Mosaic of the Moon from the Stocker Astroscience Center

Image The Full Moon as seen from the Stocker Astroscience center over the MMC Campus at Florida International University on 9/14/2016. The mosaic is made up of nine individual images through an ultraviolet filter using the Finger Lakes CCD attached to the ACE 24" telescope. Ten images of each individual location on the Moon were analyzed and the sharpest ones were used for the mosaic. The images were taken and fit together by Dr. Webb.

SPOW is sponsored by a grant from Orbital ATK corporation. Most images presented here were made from the FIU campus using the Astronomical Consultants and Equipment (ACE) 24" automated telescope and the Fingerlakes MaxCam CCD camera through RGBL or UBVRI filters.

The Moon - the first image taken with our new telescope

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The Moon, the northeaster section to be precise. The large crater like structure in the image is the Mare Crisium (“Sea of Crises”), a 68000 square miles lunar Maria, which are large basalt plains created by large collisions early during the Moon’s formation. What’s interesting about this picture is that it is the first (semi-)picture-of-the-week to be taken by Stocker Astro-science Center’s new ACE 24 inch Telescope. This picture was taken on November 24th, 2014 by Dr. James Webb and combined and unsharp masked by James Webb and Bobby Martinez.

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The Moon from the JWGT - First Light

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This lovely picture of the Moon was taken by Dr. Peter Mack of the Astronomical Consultants and Equipment company. Peter designed and built the 24" telescope, as well as wrote all of the controlling software. He and Dr. Webb, assisted by Patrick Ford and Mike Smith, installed the telescope and cameras. The students have been calling the telescope the "James Webb Ground-based Telescope" (JWGT) not to be confused with the "James Webb Space Telescope" (JWST). The telescope in now fully operational, and is operated by qualified students on a regular basis.

The large crater at the top is named Tycho, after the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. The "Rays" extending radially out from the crater are formed by the ejecta, material thrown out as a result of a large asteroid colliding with the Moon. The light areas are the lunar highlands and mountains, while the darker areas are called Maria or "seas". Although there is no water on the Moon, ancient astronomers thought they might be oceans. The low reflectivity of the Maria rock is due to the fact that they were formed from lava flows early after the formation of the Moon, so its composition is totally different from the Lunar highlands.

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Jupiter

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Jupiter, the fifth planet in our solar system and our largest neighbor. There are over 480 million miles between the Sun and Jupiter, about 5 times the distance of the Sun to the Earth. With an approximate 44 thousand mile radius, over 1300 individual earths could fit inside Jupiter. Along with being the largest planet, Jupiter also has the most moons, 67 of them are known, including the four largest Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. One of Jupiter’s most interesting aspects is that it actually has rings like Saturn or Neptune, except much smaller, so small that they were only first discovered recently discovered in 1979. This image was taken by the Stocker Astroscience Center telescope by Dr. James Webb and color combined by Bobby Martinez.

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The Planet Saturn from The Stocker Astroscience Center

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The planet Saturn from the MMC campus of Florida International University. The image was taken by Dr. Webb on May 17, 2015 using the 24" telescope as Saturn approached opposition. Opposition is the position of a superior planet (planet that orbits outside the Earths orbit)when it is exactly opposite the Sun. This means it rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west, and transits directly overhead at midnight. It also means that the planet is closest it gets to Earth, thus its angular size is the largest it gets as well. This image was taken while the Blazar group was in the control room observing with the SARA South telescope in Chile. You can also see 4 of Saturns moons: Tethys, Dione, Rhea and Titan (from right to left).

I would like to thank Bobby Martinez who worked very hard during the past year doing the Stocker Picture of the Week. Thanks Bobby for all of your hard work and we miss you here at FIU. Good luck with your college career! -Dr. Webb.

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Blue Moon from the Stocker AstroScience Center

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The Crescent Moon over FIU through the 24" JWGT. The images were processed and displayed in pseudo-color. Just imagine a Moon around a distant planet hanging in the sky! An alien vista.

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The Moon Mosaic from the Stocker Astroscience Center

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The Moon, which is 365,000-406,000 km away, is the Earth’s only natural satellite. The Moon has an apparent magnitude range of -2.5 to -12.9, meaning the near side can always be observed with the naked eye (except during a new moon). It can be observed in various phases, due to its position relative to the Sun whose light illuminates its surface. Occasionally, the Moon lies in the same plane as the Sun, and we can see lunar or solar eclipses. This is caused by the close proximity of two important numbers: that the Moon is about 389 times closer to the Earth than the Sun is, while the Sun’s diameter is 403 times larger than the diameter of the Moon. The Moon and Sun appear to be the same angular size, which is why solar eclipses appear to be complete eclipses. The far side of the Moon is never visible from Earth since the Moon’s orbital and rotational periods are the same. The Moon has been Earth’s companion for billions of years; the most accepted hypothesis of the creation of the Moon is the giant Impact hypothesis, which suggests that a Mars-sized object named Theia impacted with the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. The debris regrouped and then formed the Moon. The Moon has since been providing a gravitational presence that influences tides on the Earth, and a visual and emotional symbol for Earthlings, prompting music and songs about its romantic influence on humans. The image presented above is the result of the combination of five individual CCD images taken by Dr. Webb and physics major Steven Revesz, through a U filter on the 24” telescope at FIU’s Stocker Astroscience Center, on November 23, 2015. The images, whose exposure times were 0.02 seconds, were initially reduced by Dr. Webb and the mosaic was put together by Gabriel Salazar. The telescope is so powerful, looking with the eye or with a high resolution video camera, one can resolve craters less than two kilometers across on the Lunar surface. Of the features in the mosaic above, most prominent is the crater Tycho, near the right edge just above the middle. Note the rays coming from it; they were formed by the scatter of debris from the impact of an asteroid. The dark areas are “Maria” or “seas”. Although they contain no water, they are large impact sites flooded with lava in the Moons distant past. The small circular Maria at the bottom of the picture is Mare Crisium, while the larger dark Maria just above it is Mare Tranquillitatis, or the “Sea of Tranquility”. This was the site of the very first Lunar Landing, Apollo 11back in 1969.

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Uranus and Two of its Moons

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The gas planet Uranus, discovered by William Herschel in 1781, is the seventh planet from the sun (about 1.787 billion miles away) and the third largest planet in the solar system (radius of 15,759 miles). It was visited by Voyager 2 in 1986, and has not been visited since then. Uranus has 13 rings, though they are very faint. One Uranian orbital period around the sun, or year, is the equivalent of 84 Earth years. Uranus has 27 known satellites, two of which are Titania and Oberon. Titania, the largest of Uranus’ moons, was also discovered by William Herschel, in 1787. Oberon, the second largest of Uranus’ moons, was discovered on the same day. Both moons were not observed for nearly 50 years after their discovery by Herschel. They can be observed by modern amateur telescopes. This image was taken by Stephen Revesz on December 30, 2015, using the 24” telescope atop FIU’s Stocker AstroScience Center. The image uses the luminance filter, exposed for 3 seconds, and was reduced by Gabriel Salazar.

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A Portrait of Jupiter from the Stocker Astroscience Center

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Jupiter, named after the greatest Roman god, is the largest planet in our solar system. Jupiter holds many other accolades among the other planets of our solar system: It contains the largest moon, Ganymede; it has the fastest rotation period, with 9.9 hours per rotation; it also has the largest sea, made of liquid metallic hydrogen. It is unknown who discovered Jupiter, as there exists documentation of Jupiter from the 7th century BC. It is known, however, that it was first observed through a telescope by Galileo Galilei, who also discovered Jupiter’s four largest moons in 1610. Jupiter, which sometimes is as bright as magnitude of -2.94, appears as a very bright star in the night sky. This gas giant is also very large. So large, in fact, that it is more massive than every other planet in the solar system combined and accounts for over 70% of our solar system’s planetary material. Even Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a large storm that has been raging for over 350 years and has had a diameter three times that of Earth, appears massive. Surrounding Jupiter are 67 moons and a very faint ring system of 3 rings. The shadow of a moon, likely Ganymede’s, can be seen in this image at around an 11’o clock position on Jupiter. This image is the result of four images in the U filter that were taken by Dr. Webb using the Stocker AstroScience Center’s 24” telescope. They were reduced by Debra Duval and added false color to by Gabriel Salazar.