Jupiter Making is Closest approach to Earth in 59 years

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Written By Sristi Dumre

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Prepare your telescopes and astronomers. Tonight, Jupiter will reach opposition, and this year’s occurrence of the astronomical event is particularly noteworthy.

An object is in opposition when, as seen from Earth, it seems to be opposite the sun. As a result, on Monday night, Jupiter will rise in the east as the sun sets in the west, 180 degrees apart. (In other words, the sun and Jupiter are directly between Jupiter and the Earth.)

Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, making it not all that uncommon. However, Jupiter’s perihelion, or the point in its orbit when it comes closest to the sun, also happens to fall on the same day as this year’s opposition. Jupiter is now only 367 million miles from Earth, which is the closest it has been since 1963, according to NASA.

Although that might seem like a great distance, Jupiter is rather close to Earth tonight—up to 600 million miles away.

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Simply step outside between sunset and morning to see Jupiter; it should be visible somewhere in the night sky. (To find out exactly when Jupiter will rise and set in your area, use the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s Planets Visible Tonight calculator.) Look to the east in the early evening and to the west closer to sunrise to find it because, according to EarthSky, it will be the brightest star in the night sky. To find the planet, you can also use the assistance of astronomy software like SkyView or Star Walk 2.

How to watch Jupiter

You can see Jupiter with the unaided eye, but it is better to use binoculars or a telescope to see the planet’s red and white stripes, the Great Red Spot, and its largest moons in greater detail.

The banding (at least the central band) and three to four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible with decent binoculars, according to a blog post by research astrophysicist Adam Kobelski from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “It’s crucial to keep in mind that Galileo used optics from the 17th century to observe these moons. A secure mount for your chosen system will be one of your most important requirements.”

And don’t worry if the weather isn’t ideal tonight; Jupiter will still be quite enormous and bright for the next few days, so you may have a look when the skies are clear.

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