Next Monday, September 26, Jupiter will be the closest to Earth it has been in 70 years.
At its farthest point, the planet is about 965.5 million kilometers (600 million miles) from Earth. Next Monday, it will be about 587 million kilometers (365 million miles) away, thanks to the positions of both Earth and Jupiter in their respective orbits bringing them closer than usual.
Coinciding with this moment is a phenomenon called “opposition” which means that Jupiter will not only be close to Earth, but ready for a close-up. A planet is in opposition when its position is on opposite sides of the Earth from the Sun – rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. This happens every 13 months for Jupiter, and when it does, the planet appears both bigger and brighter.
The planet will be so close that viewers will be able to see at least the central band and three or four of the moons with good binoculars.
As research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center Adam Kobelski pointed out, Galileo Galilei observed them with 17th-century technology.
“One of the most important needs will be a stable mount no matter what system you use,” said Kobelski, who added that a four-inch or larger telescope and some filters in the green to blue range would mean Jupiter’s features would be visible in even greater degree. detail.
“Beyond the Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.” said the astrophysicist.
Those looking for the gas giant will do best by viewing from high altitudes in a dark and dry area. However, the date they observe Jupiter has some flexibility.
“Views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26,” said Kobelski, who advised viewers to pick a date a few days before or after next Monday when the weather is best.
Some stargazing enthusiasts are already managing to collect clear images of the planet, like this one from a Celestron 11-inch XLT that we found on Amazon for $3,999.
Hello Twitter. First scope time in over a month. Jupiter and Io last night. Approaching the opposition. pic.twitter.com/l1MFdGnJTm
— Matt Smith (@AstroNameHere) 16 September 2022
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Its streaks and swirls are the visual result of clouds of ammonia and water mixing in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. Seventy-nine moons have been discovered as satellites of the planet, of which 53 have been named. ®