Department of Physics AstroLab

Moons of Jupiter

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It has a large number of satellites. The largest is Ganymede which is about three-quarters the size of Mars. Ganymede orbits Jupiter in a period of about 7 days. Other large satellites are Io, Europa and Callisto. These orbit Jupiter with periods ranging from 2 to 16 days.

The goal of the project is to obtain a series of images of Jupiter and its satellites so that the orbital periods of as many of the satellites as possible can be determined. How well can these periods be determined from the data obtained? What is the evidence for orbital resonances? Software is available to aid the identification of the satellites. As well as the four bright Galilean satellites, measurements should also be made of the fainter satellites like Himalia. This project would benefit from a student group willing to make more observations (at least 15).

An example of the type of observations required is given below.

This image is a 0.11-second exposure of Jupiter taken with the ST7 on the 12-inch telescope on 2003-Feb-9 at 18:38. The inset image in the lower right hand corner is a 2x zoomed subimage of Jupiter.  

By taking a series of such images the relative position of the moons can be readily determined.


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