Jupiter is among the five planets in our solar system that are visible in the night sky. You can observe this planet without any aid from binoculars or telescopes. Because of its night time visibility, we know that this planet has been seen by people even before anyone has ever recorded history. Because of this we can’t really tell who discovered Jupiter. The planet has always been known even in ancient times. It has also been observed for thousands of years by many different people.
Jupiter was observed by Galileo Galilei on January 7, 1610. Not only was he able to discover the planet he was also able to discover three of the many moons orbiting it. On January 13 of the same year, which is only six nights after, he discovered a fourth moon. The four moons were later dubbed the Galilean Moons. All the moons were named after the lovers of the god Zeus. However, even after Galileo’s discovery we may not credit him as the astronomer who discovered Jupiter.
Challenge to Galileo’s Discovery
His discovery is thought to be the earliest discovery of other moons other than that of the Earth’s. However this discovery of Galileo’s does not go unchallenged. A Chinese astronomy historian by the name of Xi Zezong claims that an earlier discovery of Jupiter’s moons occurred centuries earlier. He claims that a Chinese astronomer Gan De discovered one of moons of Jupiter in 362 BCE. Though Gan De’s discovery predates that of Galileo’s by centuries he may not be deemed as the one who discovered Jupiter.
Discovery by Simon Marius
An interesting occurrence in the discussion on who discovered Jupiter is that of Simon Marius. Just a few nights after Galileo made his observations Simon Marius, a Dutch astronomer, saw Jupiter’s moons using his telescope. He was responsible for naming the said moons after Greek gods. Galileo named them using numbers. Marius was ridiculed and ostracized since no one would honor the names he gave the moons spoken of. The names he gave eventually were honored in recognition of his work and they are the names we know such moons today.
Big Red Spot
In finding out who discovered Jupiter you’ll come across one of this planet’s mysteries known as the big red spot. It was first reported in 1664 by Robert Hooke. Several fly by missions took photographs of it. However we do not have any information as to why this red spot diminishes and grows in size.
Since Jupiter is among the planets in our solar system that is visible to the naked eye we can be sure that it has been sighted even before recorded history. Because of this we can’t credit any people or single individual as the ones who discovered Jupiter.