Hubble captures rare triple moon transit of Jupiter
These new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images capture a rare occurrence as three of Jupiter’s largest moons parade across the giant gas planet’s banded face. Hubble took a string of images of the event which show the three satellites — Europa, Callisto and Io — in action.
There are four Galilean satellites — named after the 17th century scientist Galileo Galilei who discovered them . They complete orbits around Jupiter ranging from two to seventeen days in duration. The moons can commonly be seen transiting the face of Jupiter and casting shadows onto its layers of cloud. However, seeing three of them transiting the face of Jupiter at the same time is rare, occurring only once or twice a decade.
The image on the left shows the Hubble observation at the beginning of the event. On the left is the moon Callisto and on the right, Io. The shadows from Callisto, Io and Europa are strung out from left to right. Europa itself cannot be seen in the image.
The image on the right shows the end of the event, just over 40 minutes later. Europa has entered the frame at lower left with slower-moving Callisto above and to the right of it. Meanwhile Io — which orbits significantly closer to Jupiter and so moves much more quickly — is approaching the eastern limb of the planet. Whilst Callisto’s shadow seems hardly to have moved, Io’s has set over the planet’s eastern edge and Europa’s has risen further in the west. The event is also shown from start to finish in a video.
Missing from this sequence is the Galilean moon Ganymede which was outside Hubble’s field of view.
The moons of Jupiter have very distinctive colours. The smooth icy surface of Europa is yellow-white, the volcanic sulphur surface of Io is orange and the surface of Callisto, which is one of the oldest and most cratered surfaces known in the Solar System, is a brownish colour.
The images were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in visible light on 23 January 2015. Whilst Hubble captures these moons in great clarity they can also be seen with a small telescope or even a decent pair of binoculars. Why not try it at home?
 These were among the first observations ever made using a telescope. They revolutionised our understanding of the Universe, and finally laid to rest the theory that the Earth is the centre of the Solar System.
Notes for editors
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
ESA/Hubble Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +44 7816291261
Georgia Bladon | ESA/Hubble Media Newsletter
Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons
20.03.2018 | ITMO University
Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions
20.03.2018 | University of California - Berkeley
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences