One of our friends at the Golden Pond Planetarium in Golden Pond, Kentucky wondered what Dr. Marc's favorite planet is. Well, I like all the planets, but my favorite is Jupiter, because I feel I have a special connection with it.
When I was in about the 6th grade, I came across a very small, old telescope my dad had in the basement. It wasn't the kind of 'scope usually used for observing the sky, but that's what I decided to use it for. I had loved gazing at the moon and stars and looking for meteors, but with this little telescope, a whole new universe opened up for me. One of the first nights I was exploring with it, I trained it on what looked like one of the brightest stars, but I bet you can guess what it turned out to be. It was the giant planet Jupiter, and with its moons it made a truly beautiful sight! It didn't matter that people had been observing Jupiter with telescopes for over 350 years; I felt the same magical sense of discovery and beauty and awe as if I truly were the first human ever to see it. After all, it was the first time this human had seen it. In all my years of gazing in profound wonder at the vast universe, I've never lost the special affection for Jupiter I developed that night.
When Jupiter is visible, it often looks like the brightest star in the sky. You don't need a telescope to enjoy the beauty of the cosmos, but if you do have one, or even have a pair of binoculars, be sure to make your own discoveries of Jupiter and other things celestial. And to help you know what's here in our solar system for your viewing pleasure, be sure to play Solar System Switch-a-roo.