Jupiter: October 2012

Jupiter, the mythical god of sky and thunder, would certainly be pleased at all the changes afoot at his namesake planet. As the planet gets peppered continually with small space rocks, wide belts of the atmosphere are changing color, hotspots are vanishing and reappearing, and clouds are gathering over one part of Jupiter, while dissipating over another.

Watching active volcanic eruptions should definitely be done from a distance, but a group of California researchers has figured out how to do it from the comfort of home. Using an ingenious combination of Earth-based telescopic surveys and archival data, they have gathered nearly 40 distinct snapshots of effusive volcanic eruptions and high temperature outbursts on Jupiter's tiny moon, Io, showing details as small as 100 km (60 miles) on the moon's surface.

Scientists using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, have uncovered new clues in the ongoing mystery of the Jovian Trojans -- asteroids that orbit the Sun on the same path as Jupiter. Like racehorses, the asteroids travel in packs, with one group leading the way in front of the gas giant, and a second group trailing behind.

Technology has radically changed the contributions that amateurs can make to the field of astronomy. Using a readily-available 'hobby' telescope, off-the-shelf camera and computer equipment, plus experienced observing skills, Emmanuel I. Kardasis of the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association has produced the first amateur albedo map of Jupiter's moon Ganymede.

Europa, the enigmatic moon of Jupiter, is believed to be home to a subsurface ocean of liquid water. However, future missions to explore Europa's ocean may need to dig deep.