Stunning video captures a rare Jupiter triple-eclipse: 3 large moons casting their shadows over the planet

three moons crossing jupiter circled in pink
Left to right: Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto cross in front of Jupiter, August 15, 2021.

Jupiter and its largest satellites recently performed a rare dance.

Three of the planet’s enormous moons – Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – all paraded across Jupiter’s swirling surface at once, casting their shadows on the clouds below.

Christopher Go, an amateur astronomer in the Philippines, captured images of the spectacle around midnight on August 15. Then Kunio Sayanagi, a planetary scientist at Hampton University, compiled them into the below video.

jupiter rotating as three moons pass in front of it casting shadows on jupiter

Each second of the video represents 30 minutes of real time.

“I already knew what was going to happen, but seeing it live was surreal,” Go told Insider.

In a blog post, he said he’d been waiting for this “grand slam event” all year.

From the surface of Jupiter, the area that falls in shadows of these moons would see a solar eclipse. But from Earth, this occurrence is called a “transit,” since as the moons pass between us and Jupiter, they’re transiting the giant planet. Transits are common on Jupiter – several hundred happen each year. But it’s rare for three to occur at once. The last time a triple transit happened was in 2015, according to Sayanagi, and the next one won’t happen again until 2032.

“This is a very difficult data to capture,” Sayanagi told Insider. “I am convinced that this is the best movie ever made of Jupiter’s triple transit event.”

Go was especially lucky to capture this footage, since it’s the middle of monsoon season in the Philippines. It rained every night the week of the triple transit, but the skies cleared just in time for Go to prepare his telescope and watch the Jovian trio parade across the planet’s bands.

One moon briefly eclipses the other

There’s more to this video than the triple transit, though. At the beginning, the yellow-hued moon Io makes a brief appearance as it zips behind Jupiter. Then about halfway through, something more unusual happens: Europa passes between Ganymede and Jupiter.

Europa, a small icy world with an ocean deep below its surface, briefly disappears behind the larger Ganymede. As it reemerges, Ganymede’s shadow is visibly eclipsing the little moon.

jupiter moons transiting with pink arrow pointing to europa with ganymede's shadow
Europa (right) emerges from behind Ganymede (left) with the larger moon’s shadow eclipsing it.

“That was really exciting was to see the shadow of Ganymede split,” Go said. “Half on Europa and the other half on the surface of Jupiter.”

Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system and has its own hidden ocean, just like Europa. Many scientists think these moons’ subsurface oceans could host alien life.

Galileo Galilei first observed the four moons in this video – Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Io – in 1610. It was the first time anybody had documented objects orbiting another planet. That got Galileo thinking that maybe Earth wasn’t the center of the universe.

“We all know that today, but even then, seeing the moons dance around Jupiter casting shadows and eclipsing each other is awe-inspiring,” Sayanagi said.

In total, scientists think Jupiter has 79 moons, but the rest of them are much smaller than the four Galilean moons.

Europa
Europa, as imaged by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.

Even without its moons, Jupiter’s colorful clouds and raging storms make for a stunning astronomical sight.

“I have been observing Jupiter whenever I can since 2003,” said Go, who runs a furniture company with his wife. “Jupiter is so dynamic that you can see changes everyday.”

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NASA is giving SpaceX $178 million to launch its mission to a Jupiter moon that could harbor alien life

europa clipper illustration shows spacecraft flying above icy moon with jupiter in background
This illustration, updated in December 2020, depicts NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft.

NASA has chosen SpaceX to launch its next alien-hunting mission to a Jupiter moon.

The mission, called Europa Clipper, is designed to fly past Jupiter’s moon Europa 45 times, getting as close as 16 miles above its surface. Scientists believe the moon conceals a global ocean beneath its icy crust, and alien life could thrive deep within it.

NASA announced Friday that it set a date for the mission and awarded the $178 million launch contract to SpaceX. Now Europa Clipper is scheduled to blast off aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket in October 2024.

falcon heavy rocket launches engines firing through grey skies
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches on a demonstration flight from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Europa Clipper’s main objective is to determine whether Europa could host life at all. It aims to take high-resolution images of the moon’s surface, chart the composition and thickness of its icy crust, look for lakes below the surface, and measure the depth and saltiness of the ocean below.

The spacecraft could even fly through plumes of water vapor that shoot through Europa’s ice, since those are known to crest more than 100 miles above the surface. This water seems to come from the ocean below, and it could contain signs of life.

The reason Europa can keep water in a liquid state is that it follows an oval-shaped orbit around Jupiter. The giant planet’s gravity stretches and relaxes the moon, and that friction warms Europa’s deep underground salt water, keeping it liquid. The warmth from that process could also allow the moon to harbor deep-sea ecosystems.

SpaceX is becoming a NASA favorite

SpaceX, the rocket company Elon Musk founded in 2002, is not in the business of studying other planets. But it is in the business of launching things for NASA, and the agency is awarding the company more and more opportunities to do so.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk smiles in front of a blue background
Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship flew NASA astronauts to the International Space Station last year. It was the first time the US has launched its own astronauts since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. SpaceX is now regularly ferrying astronauts to and from the space station.

In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to turn its in-development Starship megarocket into a lunar lander. The agency said Starship is set to land astronauts on the moon in 2024 (though that timeline may be unrealistic). That would be the first human moon landing since the Apollo missions ended in 1972.

The decision prompted challenges from competing rocket makers Blue Origin and Dynetics since the original plan was for NASA to pick two of the three companies for lunar-lander contracts. The protests required NASA to order that SpaceX stop work on the lunar lander.

SpaceX didn’t win its new Europa Clipper contract without contest, either. According to Eric Berger, a senior space editor for Ars Technica, Congress has spent years urging NASA to launch the mission aboard its own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. But legislators finally relented due to delays in the launch system’s development, its high cost, and a recent technical issue that would require $1 billion to correct, Berger reported.

According to Berger, NASA could save nearly $2 billion by launching the mission aboard Falcon Heavy instead of SLS.

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photographed colliding galaxies after recovering from a month-long mystery glitch

hubble telescope in space above earth clouds
The Hubble Space Telescope hovers at the boundary of Earth and space in this picture, taken after Hubble’s second servicing mission in 1997.

The Hubble Space Telescope is back, and NASA has the pictures to prove it.

The Earth-orbiting observatory went offline on June 13 and stayed that way for more than a month while engineers struggled to identify a mysterious glitch. NASA still hasn’t announced what exactly caused the problem, but the agency’s engineers managed to bring Hubble back online by activating some of its backup hardware on Thursday.

“I was quite worried,” NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in a Friday video interview with Nzinga Tull, who led the Hubble team through troubleshooting. “We all knew this was riskier than we normally do.”

Hubble slowly powered up its science instruments again over the weekend and conducted system check-outs to make sure everything still worked. Then it snapped its first images since the whole debacle started.

The telescope focused its lens on a set of unusual galaxies on Saturday. One of its new images shows a pair of galaxies slowly colliding. The other image shows a spiral galaxy with long, extended arms. Most spiral galaxies have an even number of arms, but this one only has three.

galaxies black and white photos from hubble space telescope
Hubble’s first images after recovering from a month-long glitch show some unusual galaxies.

Hubble is also observing Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, or auroras, as well as tight clusters of stars. NASA hasn’t shared images from those observations yet.

“I’m thrilled to see that Hubble has its eye back on the universe, once again capturing the kind of images that have intrigued and inspired us for decades,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release. “This is a moment to celebrate the success of a team truly dedicated to the mission. Through their efforts, Hubble will continue its 32nd year of discovery, and we will continue to learn from the observatory’s transformational vision.”

A mysterious glitch that took a month to fix

hubble space telescope orbiting earth
The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit above Earth.

Hubble, the world’s most powerful space telescope, launched into orbit in 1990. It has photographed the births and deaths of stars, spotted new moons circling Pluto, and tracked two interstellar objects zipping through our solar system. Its observations have allowed astronomers to calculate the age and expansion of the universe and to peer at galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang.

But the telescope’s payload computer suddenly stopped working on June 13. That computer, built in the 1980s, is like Hubble’s brain – it controls and monitors all the science instruments on the spacecraft. Engineers tried and failed to bring it back online several times. Eventually, after running more diagnostic tests, they realized that the computer wasn’t the problem at all – some other hardware on the spacecraft was causing the shutdown.

nzinga tull sits at computer in nasa control room working on hubble space telescope
Nzinga Tull, Hubble systems anomaly response manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, works in the control room July 15 to restore Hubble to full science operations.

It’s still not totally clear which piece of hardware was the culprit. Engineers suspect that a failsafe on the telescope’s Power Control Unit (PCU) instructed the payload computer to shut down. The PCU could have been sending the wrong voltage of electricity to the computer, or the failsafe itself could have been malfunctioning.

NASA was prepared for issues like this. Each piece of Hubble’s hardware has a twin pre-installed on the telescope in case it fails. So engineers switched all the faulty parts to that backup hardware. Now the telescope is back in full observation mode.

“I feel super excited and relieved,” Tull said after making the hardware switch. “Glad to have good news to share.”

Though NASA has fixed the glitch, it’s a sign that Hubble’s age may be starting to interfere with its science. The telescope hasn’t been upgraded since 2009, and some of its hardware is more than 30 years old.

“This is an older machine, and it’s kind of telling us: Look, I’m getting a little bit old here, right? It’s talking to us,” Zurbuchen said on Friday. “Despite that, more science is ahead, and we’re excited about it.”

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A mesmerizing NASA video lets you ride with the Juno spacecraft as it flies by Jupiter and its largest moon

NASA's Juno spacecraft in orbit above JupiterÕs Great Red Spot is seen in this undated handout illustration obtained by Reuters July 11, 2017.  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS
An illustration of NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been beaming photos of Jupiter back to Earth since 2016, but a new video shows what the view might look like from inside the probe as it flies past Jupiter’s roaring cyclones and giant storms.

The footage also offers a front-row look at Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede – an icy orb larger than Mercury.

Juno flew within 645 miles of Ganymede last week – the closest any spacecraft has gotten to the moon in more than two decades. (The last approach was by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000.) Less than a day later, Juno conducted its 34th flyby of Jupiter, snapping photos along the way.

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt compiled images from both of those journeys into a time-lapse video that shows what it’s like to pass by the celestial bodies. The video lasts three minutes and 30 seconds, but in reality, it took Juno nearly 15 hours to travel the 735,000 miles between Ganymede and Jupiter, then about three additional hours to travel between Jupiter’s poles.

Take a look at the video below:

The beginning of the footage reveals Ganymede’s cratered surface, marked by dark patches that likely form as ice changes directly from solid to gas. If you look closely, you can see one of Ganymede’s largest and brightest craters, Tros, surrounded by white rays of ejected material.

When it captured those images, Juno was traveling at a speed of roughly 41,600 miles per hour. But as the spacecraft got closer to Jupiter, it picked up speed: The planet’s gravity accelerates Juno to nearly 130,000 miles per hour during its flybys.

The video shows Jupiter’s turbulent surface emerging from the dark abyss of space like a watercolor painting. White ovals indicate a set of giant storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere known as the “string of pearls.” (There are five of them in the video.) Flashes of white light represent lightning.

“The animation shows just how beautiful deep-space exploration can be,” Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said in a statement.

He added: “Today, as we approach the exciting prospect of humans being able to visit space in orbit around Earth, this propels our imagination decades into the future, when humans will be visiting the alien worlds in our solar system.”

Juno has already solved some of Jupiter’s mysteries

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Jupiter.

Juno flies in an elliptical orbit around Jupiter, getting close to the planet once every 53 days. Its recent close pass to Ganymede, however, shortened that orbit to 43 days.

The spacecraft’s main goal is to gain insight into Jupiter’s origins and evolution by mapping its magnetic fields, studying its northern and southern lights (or auroras), and measuring elements of its atmosphere – including temperature, cloud movement, and water concentrations.

The spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016. (Jupiter is roughly 390 million miles away from Earth.) Its mission was initially supposed to end this month, but NASA has extended Juno’s lifespan through 2025.

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Jupiter as seen by the Juno probe during its 10th flyby.

Juno’s previous flybys have yielded important discoveries, like the fact that most of Jupiter’s lightning is concentrated at its north pole. The spacecraft also found that storms tend to appear in symmetrical clusters at Jupiter’s poles, and that the planet’s powerful auroras produce ultraviolet light that’s invisible to human eyes.

Just this week, Juno’s measurements helped scientists figure out why these auroras form in the first place: Electrically charged atoms, or ions, “surf” electromagnetic waves in Jupiter’s magnetic field before crashing into the planet’s atmosphere.

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NASA’s Juno probe at Jupiter beamed back close-up photos of the planet’s largest moon, Ganymede, for the first time in 2 decades

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The Juno spacecraft (left) flew past Ganymede (right) on Monday.

Grey, heavily cratered, and peering out from the black of space, Ganymede looks a lot like our moon. But the icy rock is more than 400 million miles away – it’s the largest moon in the solar system, and it circles Jupiter.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been rocketing around Jupiter since 2016, but on Monday, it zipped past Ganymede, coming within 645 miles of the moon. No spacecraft had gotten that close in more than two decades – the last approach was NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000.

In just 25 minutes, Ganymede went from being a distant point of light from Juno’s vantage point to a looming, round disk, then back to a point of light. It was just enough time for the probe to snap five photos.

NASA released the first two images on Tuesday; they’re the most detailed snapshots ever captured of the gargantuan moon.

“This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,” Scott Bolton, who leads the Juno spacecraft team, said in NASA’s press release. “We are going to take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder – the only moon in our solar system bigger than the planet Mercury.”

Scientists believe that Ganymede may host an ocean of salty water 500 miles beneath its icy shell – which would hold more water than Earth does. It’s also the only moon in the solar system with its own magnetic field, which creates an aurora at its poles. Scientists hope the Juno flyby will help them learn more about both Ganymede’s ice shell and its magnetic field.

The first Juno image, below, captures almost an entire side of the ice-encrusted moon. Each pixel covers about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer).

ganymede jupiter moon juno photo close up
This image of Ganymede was obtained by the JunoCam imager during Juno’s June 7, 2021 flyby of the icy moon.

This image is just from the Juno camera’s green-light filter. In the coming days, NASA expects to receive more images from the spacecraft, including those captured with its red- and blue-light filters. That will allow the agency to create a colorful portrait of Ganymede.

Juno’s black-and-white navigation camera also snapped a photo, below, of Ganymede’s dark side.

ganymede jupiter moon surface up close juno flyby
This image of the dark side of Ganymede was obtained by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit navigation camera during its June 7, 2021 flyby.

It’s visible thanks to light scattered from Jupiter.

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New images reveal Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and its smaller counterpart, Red Spot Jr., in stunning detail

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Three images of Jupiter show the gas giant in different types of light: infrared (left), visible, and ultraviolet (right).

  • Two telescopes have captured stunning images of Jupiter in regular, infrared, and ultraviolet light.
  • The images can help astronomers study storms and hot spots in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • Infrared imaging revealed that Jupiter’s shrinking Great Red Spot is riddled with holes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jupiter looks good in all kinds of light.

A set of images released Tuesday show the planet in infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. The combination reveals Jupiter’s characteristic Great Red Spot – a cyclonic storm large enough to engulf the Earth – in stunning detail. Also visible in the photos is the Great Red Spot’s smaller counterpart, aptly nicknamed Red Spot Jr. That storm, whose scientific name is Oval BA, appears to the bottom right of the Great Red Spot in the visible-light and ultraviolet images.

Astronomers were able to photograph Jupiter’s atmosphere in these different wavelengths of light by using both a camera on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and an infrared imager on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The images were first captured on January 11, 2017.

Such photos can help researchers glean new insight into the super-storms, hot spots, and cyclones that define the gas giant’s stormy atmosphere.

The Great Red Spot is riddled with holes

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This infrared view of Jupiter was created from data captured on January 11, 2017 by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

The infrared image of Jupiter shows that the cloud cover of the Great Red Spot is full of holes. Through these gaps, heat from the planet’s surface is leaking into the atmosphere.

In visible light, the holes look like swaths of different, darker clouds, but the infrared image confirmed that there aren’t any clouds in those darker patches. They’re just gaps in the giant storm.

“It’s kind of like a jack-o-lantern,” Michael Wong, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said last year.

Wong helped produce the new infrared image of Jupiter. He thinks the Great Red Spot’s mottled visage could be explained by swirling wind currents.

“The closest analog is eddies in the ocean,” he said in a release. “As the storm clouds spin, you can get little anomalies from these eddies that form streaks by just winding up.”

noir lab jupiter hubble
This visible-light image of Jupiter was created from data captured by a camera on the Hubble Space Telescope on January 11, 2017.

To create the infrared images, Wong’s team used a technique called “lucky imaging.” That’s when a ground telescope takes many short-exposure images of the same spot, and researchers then select the sharpest ones (which are generally taken in moments when Earth’s atmosphere was creating little interference). By stitching together these images of each region, the researchers crafted a portrait of the entire planet.

Keeping tabs on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot using different types of imaging may help solve the mystery of its shrinking. In the 1800s, the Great Red Spot was almost 25,000 miles across. Since then it’s shrunk by 60% – according to Wong’s team, the spot is currently only 10,000 miles wide.

A view of Red Spot Jr.

noir lab jupiter hubble
This ultraviolet image of Jupiter was created from data captured by a camera on the Hubble Space Telescope on January 11, 2017.

Jupiter’s Red Spot Jr. formed in 2000, when three storms merged together. Although the region appears red in the visible-light image, that’s not always the case – when the spot first formed, it was white. Then it turned red several years later, and in the four years since Hubble took the newly released images, the red spot has changed back to white again.

Although Red Spot Jr. isn’t visible in the infrared-light view of Jupiter, four large hot spots near Jupiter’s equator do appear in the image. Like in the Great Red Spot, these bright patches are regions where heat from the planet below oozes into the atmosphere.

noirlab jupiter
This infrared view of Jupiter was created from data captured on January 11, 2017 by the international Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

Another feature visible in the infrared image is a bright streak atop a darker patch in the planet’s northern hemisphere.

This band is likely a giant cyclone, or series of cyclones, nearly 45,000 miles wide.

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Labels added to this Hubble image of Jupiter point out several atmospheric features, including the Great Red Spot, and Red Spot Jr.

At visible wavelengths, the cyclones appears dark brown, so this type of feature is known as a “brown barge.”

Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed to this story.

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What would happen if humans tried to land on Jupiter

  • Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas.
  • If you tried to land on Jupiter, it would be a bad idea.
  • You’d face extremely hot temperatures and you’d free-float in mid-Jupiter with no way of escaping.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: The best way to explore a new world is to land on it. That’s why humans have sent spacecraft to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon, Titan, and more.

But there are a few places in the solar system we will never understand as well as we’d like. One of them is Jupiter.

Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas. So, trying to land on it would be like trying to land on a cloud here on Earth. There’s no outer crust to break your fall on Jupiter. Just an endless stretch of atmosphere.

The big question, then, is: Could you fall through one end of Jupiter and out the other? It turns out, you wouldn’t even make it halfway. Here’s what would happen if you tried to land on Jupiter.

*It’s important to note that we feature the Lunar Lander for the first half of the descent. In reality, the Lunar Lander is relatively delicate compared to, say, NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Therefore, the Lunar Lander would not be used for a mission to land on any world that contains an atmosphere, including Jupiter. However, any spacecraft, no matter how robust, would not survive for long in Jupiter, so the Lunar Lander is as good of a choice as any for this hypothetical scenario. 

First things first, Jupiter’s atmosphere has no oxygen. So make sure you bring plenty with you to breathe. The next problem is the scorching temperatures. So pack an air conditioner. Now, you’re ready for a journey of epic proportions.

For scale, here’s how many Earths you could stack from Jupiter’s center. As you enter the top of the atmosphere, you’re be traveling at 110,000 mph under the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.

But brace yourself. You’ll quickly hit the denser atmosphere below, which will hit you like a wall. It won’t be enough to stop you, though.

After about 3 minutes you’ll reach the cloud tops 155 miles down. Here, you’ll experience the full brunt of Jupiter’s rotation. Jupiter is the fastest rotating planet in our solar system. One day lasts about 9.5 Earth hours. This creates powerful winds that can whip around the planet at more than 300 mph.

About 75 miles below the clouds, you reach the limit of human exploration. The Galileo probe made it this far when it dove into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995. It only lasted 58 minutes before losing contact and was eventually destroyed by the crushing pressures.

Down here, the pressure is nearly 100 times what it is at Earth’s surface.  And you won’t be able to see anything, so you’ll have to rely on instruments to explore your surroundings.

By 430 miles down, the pressure is 1,150 times higher. You might survive down here if you were in a spacecraft built like the Trieste submarine – the deepest diving submarine on Earth. Any deeper and the pressure and temperature will be too great for a spacecraft to endure.

However, let’s say you could find a way to descend even farther. You will uncover some of Jupiter’s grandest mysteries. But, sadly, you’ll have no way to tell anyone. Jupiter’s deep atmosphere absorbs radio waves, so you’ll be shut off from the outside world- unable to communicate.

Once you’ve reached 2,500 miles down, the temperature is 6,100 ºF.  That’s hot enough to melt tungsten, the metal with the highest melting point in the Universe. At this point, you will have been falling for at least 12 hours. And you won’t even be halfway through.

At 13,000 miles down, you reach Jupiter’s innermost layer. Here the pressure is 2 million times stronger than at Earth’s surface. And the temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun. These conditions are so extreme they change the chemistry of the hydrogen around you. Hydrogen molecules are forced so close together that their electrons break lose, forming an unusual substance called metallic hydrogen. Metallic hydrogen is highly reflective. So, if you tried using lights to see down here it would be impossible.

And it’s as dense as a rock. So, as you travel deeper, the buoyancy force from the metallic hydrogen counteracts gravity’s downward pull.  Eventually, that buoyancy will shoot you back up until gravity pulls you back down, sort of like a yo-yo. And when those two forces equal, you’ll be left free-floating in mid-Jupiter, unable to move up or down, and no way to escape!

Suffice it say, trying to land on Jupiter is a bad idea. We may never see what’s beneath those majestic clouds. But we can still study and admire this mysterious planet from afar.

 

A special thanks to Kunio Sayanagi at Hampton University, for his help with this video.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in February 2018.

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BestInvest calls out the top 5 worst performing asset management firms, with Invesco taking pole position for the sixth time running

worried trader
the funds must have underperformed the benchmark by 5% or more over the entire three-year period of analysis to make the list.

  • BestInvest, an online investment platform, just released their twice-yearly “Spot the Dog” report.
  • The report analyses the worst-performing funds across different sectors.
  • These are the five firms that had the most assets under management in the list.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Even the biggest names in asset management can get it wrong and BestInvest just called out some of the top losers.

In its twice-yearly ‘Spot the Dog’ report, the online investment service names and shames the top underperforming funds and firms, and Invesco has topped the list for the sixth time in a row.

“The top slot in Spot the Dog continues to be held by Invesco with 11 funds totalling £9.2 billion. Four of these funds are Tibetan Mastiff-sized beasts,” the report said.

However, the report, which doesn’t win any popularity contest among fund managers, does note that Invesco’s number of funds that made the list has fallen this time.

What is a ‘dog fund’?

So how does BestInvest identify the funds that fall into this somewhat cruel category using two filters?

First, it filters by fund universe to identify “those that have failed to beat the benchmark over three consecutive 12-month periods,” the report said.

The benchmark chosen by BestInvest is determined by the sector the fund, designating one that operates in an index that “represents the overall movements in the market that the fund operates in,” it said.

This highlights those that have consistently underperformed and allows the research to remove those that “may simply have had a short run of bad luck,” it added.

Secondly, the funds must have underperformed the benchmark by 5% or more over the entire three-year period of analysis.

The Kennel Club

These are the firms with the most assets under management, which made the list because of their “dog funds”:

1. Invesco

For the sixth time running, Invesco has landed the top “dog” spot, with 11 funds making the list, worth £9.2 billion in total. Admittedly, this is down from 13 funds valued at £11.4 billion from the last report.

Two of the firm’s funds were repeat offenders on the list: Invesco’s UK Equity High Income and UK Equity Income funds, delivering -21% and -19% respectively over a three year period compared to the benchmark.

But, in the firm’s defence these funds were only recently handed to new managers, “who are now tasked with turning them around,” the report said.

Moreover, Invesco has gone through a broad shakeup over the last year after the appointment of a new chief investment officer, Stephanie Butcher.

“This is clearly a work in progress,” the report added.

2. Jupiter

The UK-based firm Jupiter leapt up the rankings from ninth to second place in this report following its July 2020 acquisition of Merian Global Investors, making it “rescue home for two sizeable beasts,” the note said

The now enlarged group oversees 8 “dog funds”, totalling £4.1 billion of assets. The biggest of these is the Merian North American Equity fund, which has seen a -14% return in the last three years compared to the benchmark.

3. St. James Place

St James’s Place’s (SJP) in-house fund range has frequently “lurked near the top spot in the hall of shame” and sits in third position with four funds totalling £4 billion, the report said.

The number of SJP funds that made this edition has halved since the last with the SJP UK High Income fund, previously managed by fallen star Neil Woodford, escaping the shaming.

The SJP Global Smaller Companies fund was one of this edition’s biggest losers in the Global sector, coming fifth in that particular list and trailing the benchmark by -32%.

4. Schroders

Schroders took this edition’s fourth place after it number of funds to make the list rose to 11, with an increase of £4 billion in asset.

Three of the Schroder’s included are managed by its QEP team, the report highlight, who use a “systematic, data driven investment process.”

Both the Schroder European Recovery and Global Recovery funds – which target undervalued companies – made the list, underperforming the benchmark -22% and -33% respectively. These, and the firm’s income funds investing in the US, Europe and globally, struggled in the 2020 environment where ‘growth’ stocks significantly outperformed.

These growth sectors include technology and communications services which have been the biggest ‘COVID-winners’, like video-conferencing software Zoom and EV company Tesla.

Therefore, growth strategies largely left funds targeting undervalued companies or dividend-generating businesses lagging in the dust during 2020.

However, if the global economy recovers as most banks are forecasting, these ‘recovery’ or ‘value’ plays could catch-up, making significant gains.

Of note, the report excluded the £3.3 billion ‘dog fund’ managed by the firm in its joint venture with Lloyds Bank.

5. JPMorgan Asset Management

JPMorgan’s inclusion in the top five came down solely due to the JP Morgan US Equity Income fund with its huge  £3.2 billion in AUM, which fell -27% below the benchmark, the report said.

Unfortunately for JPMAM, the fund has been underweight technology stocks in a period when companies like FAANG and tech cult names like Tesla have been market leaders, as many tech companies do not pay dividends.

But, like Schroders, this could turn around if value sectors like Banks and energy – which are the main dividend payers – catch up on any economic recovery.

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Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn are clustering in the night sky in a rare, three-planet conjunction event. Here’s how to see it on Monday.

jupiter saturn conjunction
Saturn (above) and Jupiter (below) in the sky above a church in New York City, December 2020.

Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn are currently clustering together in the night sky.

Monday is the final night that the three planets will be lined up and visible at twilight. They appeared the closest they’d been in more than two decades on Sunday, forming an equilateral triangle.

“This shape is just a blip in time,” Amy Oliver, a spokeswoman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told the Boston Globe. “We won’t see it exactly like this ever again, since it probably isn’t going to happen again in this exact same way – at least not in your lifetime.”

An astronomical event in which celestial bodies align like this is called a conjunction. A triple alignment like this is known as a planetary trio.

If you hold your palm up to the sky and all three planets cluster within a circle that fits in the space between your ring finger and your pointer finger, that’s a trio. 

Here’s how to see the planetary trio before it’s gone.

Head out at twilight, and bring binoculars

mercury
The surface of Mercury, as photographed by the Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1974.

On Monday, head out at twilight, between half an hour and 45 minutes after sunset. Look to the southwestern sky. The clearer the sky is, and the father from city lights you are, the easier it will be to see the conjunction. 

Jupiter will look brightest to the naked eye (it’s about 10 times bright than Saturn), followed by Mercury, then Saturn. 

Since Saturn is so dim, it may not be distinguishable from the sun’s afterglow with the naked eye. So the best way to spot the planetary triangle is to focus your eyes on Jupiter, which will be near the top, then point a pair of binoculars at it. Mercury and Saturn should appear in the same binocular field as Jupiter, according to EarthSky

After Monday, Jupiter and Saturn will dip below the horizon and no longer be visible, while Mercury will continue rising in the sky night after night – moving steadily away from the other two planets.

Although the three worlds seem to almost touch during the planetary trio, Jupiter and Saturn are actually separated by almost five times the distance between Earth and the sun. Mercury and Saturn are separated by nearly twice that distance. 

The last time these 3 planets aligned so closely was in 2000

saturn
A photo of Saturn and two of its moons, taken by Voyager 1 in 1980.

Astronomers turned their telescopes skyward last month to catch another conjunction event, when Jupiter and Saturn aligned more closely than they had for centuries.

In the last 2,000 years, there were just two times that Jupiter and Saturn came closer in the sky: One was in 1623, but the sun’s glare made it impossible to see. The other was in 1226. 

Planetary trios, by contrast, are far more common. The last one was in October 2015. Another trio, involving Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter, will happen on February 13, according to EarthSky.

The last time Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn formed a triangle was in May 2000.

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