Jupiter and its big red spot

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Despite stormy skies, astrophotographer Darshna Ladva captures stunning Jupiter image. Rob Nolan eyes the sky at night this month

As we endure yet another storm sweeping across the UK, stargazing seems an unlikely pastime of late! The whole of October has seen maybe one or two clear skies – I’m really hoping that, as it gets colder, we’ll get some good clear skies to make up for all this bad weather!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to process any new images this month. However, a dear friend and astrophotographer Darshna Ladva kindly gave me permission to share her amazing image of Jupiter.
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and has a radius of over 43,000 miles – it is 11 times wider than Earth. Its stripes and swirls are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.
Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm, bigger than the entire Earth, that has to our knowledge been raging for hundreds of years.
From an average distance of 484 million miles, Jupiter is 5.2 astronomical units away from the Sun (one astronomical unit, or AU, is the distance from the Sun to the Earth) – this means it takes sunlight 43 minutes to travel from the Sun to Jupiter.
In this particular image, the Great Red Spot is clearly visible along with the moon Io – just one of Jupiter’s 90 or so moons! The biggest of the moons are the four Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and Simon Marius.

Lucky imaging
It takes a lot of patience and know-how to successfully photograph planets. Instead of relying on lots of static images stacked together, like a deep sky object image, the process for planetary imaging involves shooting videos – in a process aptly named ‘lucky imaging’ – using a high frame rate planetary astro camera. Between 7k and 25k frames from these videos are then stacked in specialist software to create a more stable and sharper image of the planet.
Darshna images the night sky from London, and has an amazing eye for a great nightscape photo, as well as being a dab hand at planetary imaging! She uses a Skywatcher 127mm Maksutov telescope and the ZWO ASI224 MC planetary camera.
To see more of Darshna’s amazing photography, please look her up on Instagram @nebuladva.

The night sky, November 2023 – Rob’s guide for your stargazing this month:

November is all about Jupiter! The gas giant of our solar system is nearest to Earth this month, so it’s a perfect time to explore it. On 1st November it is at its closest – a mere 370 million miles away!
Now is also a good time to grab your binoculars – choose a clear moonless night and enjoy scanning our Milky Way, the seemingly endless ribbon of star clusters and nebulae.
On 9th November, if you’re around before dawn you’ll be entertained by a dazzling duo twilight show from Venus and the crescent Moon.
Another solar system sibling is at its closest to Earth this month – on 13th, Uranus will be at a distance of 1.7 billion miles (I find the distances involved just to the objects in the outer solar system absolutely mind-boggling!). To find Venus, simply look the opposite way to the Sun.
If you managed to catch a glimpse of the Orionids meteor shower in October, you did well! I saw one shooting star among the patchy clouds! However, on the night of 17th-18th, we’ve got another chance – the annual Leonid meteor shower is set to be a better display than it has been in recent years, with a chance of some bright fireballs. It is caused by fragments of the comet Tempel-Turtle as Earth moves across its trail.
On 20th, look to the first quarter Moon and you’ll see Saturn hanging just above it.
Look to the Moon again on the 25th and the bright ‘star’ seen nearby will actually be Saturn.
The following night on the 26th, the Moon will pass under the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters.
In the build-up to Christmas, as I wrote last month I’m opening up the December image to you all, to put forward your ideas to me as to what celestial object you’d like to see featured in the magazine.
And only if it’s something I’m capable of imaging and can see from our hemisphere, of course!
So let me know what you’d like to see imaged for Christmas. Drop me a message via Facebook or Instagram! I’ve also shared a post on the BV Facebook page.
Until next time, clear skies!

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