Last night at about 9pm my son and I went outside with a pair of ordinary bird-watching binoculars and trained them on a bright starry object we’d been noticing in the western sky during the last dog walks of the evening. And this is what we saw (as best I can recall):
According to the NASA website (whose picture is much better than mine), this is no star, but our giant neighbor Jupiter, with four of its 62 moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, called the Galilean moons, after Galileo Galilei, who first spotted them in 1610.
Jupiter appears especially bright to us right now because it is both in opposition (directly opposite the sun from Earth, peaking on Oct. 29th Universal Time) and closer to Earth than it will be again until 2022. I don’t know about you, but I find it wondrous that without the aid of observatory or telescope we can see these heavenly bodies from our city street corner. In fact, if Jupiter weren’t itself so bright, we could probably see the Galilean moons without binoculars.
Their appearance left us starry-eyed, and dwarfed the importance of political squabbling, and getting that last load of laundry done, and pretty much anything else.