The solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter, will approach Earth for 59 years on September 26, even when the gas giant is directly facing the Sun as viewed from Earth, an astronomical arrangement known as opposition.
Opposition is common to Jupiteroccurs every 13 months, and every planet and a land Approximately once a year. The order that sees the earth between the sun And Jupiter rarely coincides with the massive planet’s closest approach to our planet, known as perihelion. But on this occasion, the opposition speaks on September 26 and the closest approach is on September 25.
As a result, the gas giant planet will be unusually bright and large in the sky, providing a unique opportunity to view its sights. Jupiter should be in prime position for sky watchers using binoculars or a small telescope for several days around these two accomplishments. Finding a location with a high altitude, dark skies, and dry weather will improve the visibility of the planet.
“Views should be great for a few days before and after September 26,” said Adam Kobelsky, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. NASA statement (Opens in a new tab). “So, take advantage of the good weather on both sides of this date to contemplate it the moonIt must be one of the brightest (if not) objects in the night sky.”
Related: Best Night Sky Events to See in 2022
Night sky, September 2022: what you can see tonight
The planets of the solar system revolve around the sun in flat circles or ellipses, not in perfect circles, so Earth and Jupiter intersect at varying distances.
While the Earth takes about 365 days to orbit the sun, Jupiter takes a more comfortable path around the star, completing an orbit every 4,333 Earth days or 12 Earth years.
During the approach of next week, the gas giant NASA will be approximately 367 million miles (590 million kilometers) from our planet, according to a NASA statement. At its farthest point, Jupiter is about 600 million miles (960 million km) from Earth. The last time Jupiter was so close to our planet – and the last time sky watchers were able to see it at this large and bright in the sky – was in October 1963.
A favorable alignment means that some of Jupiter’s most fascinating traits should be visible from Earth.
“With good binoculars, the band – at least the central band – and three or four Galilean satellites should be visible,” Kobelsky said in the statement. “It is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons using 17th century optics.”
The Galilee satellite It is the four largest known so far out of Jupiter’s 79 moons. These moons, called Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, should be visible as bright spots on either side of the gas giant.
icy moon Europa It hides a vast ocean and has become a primary target for investigating whether life could exist elsewhere in the solar system. To that end, Europa Clipper will venture to the Jovian moon, scheduled for launch no later than 2024. Europa will also launch the Jupiter Icy Moons spacecraft to explore three of the Galilean moons, with a launch targeted for April 2023.
Kobelsky said that astronomers using a larger and more powerful telescope should be able to observe Jupiter big red spota storm that has been raging in the planet’s atmosphere for at least two centuries.
The Great Red Spot, 10,000 miles (16,000 km) across, is believed to be the largest storm in the solar system. Wind gusts between 270 mph (430 km/h) and 425 mph (685 km/h). Recent observations by NASA’s Juno spacecraft of the Great Red Spot indicate that the storm has astonishing depth as well. The storm is already twice the width of our planet, and is deep enough to reach from the bottom of the Earth’s ocean to the bottom of the ocean International Space Station.
Jupiter isn’t just great for backyard astronomers; Scientists believe that studying the giant could help explain how the solar system formed the way it did.
Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.