During Jupiter's opposition, which occurs every 13 months, the planet appears brighter and larger. However, this time viewing Jupiter will be even more awesome. NASA explains that the Gas Giant will also be making its closest approach to Earth in 70 years!
Are you ready for the closest approach to Earth by Jupiter in seventy years?
The James Webb Space Telescope has provided us with stunning photographs of the Gas Giant in recent months. We have seen unprecedented views of Jupiter, its moons, faint, invisible rings, and stunning polar auroras. Luckily for us, we don’t need to rely upon Webb to experience the magic Jupiter has to offer. In fact, we only need binoculars or a telescope and hope for clear skies.
When Jupiter reaches opposition on Monday, Sept. 26, stargazers can expect excellent views of the giant planet. As seen from Earth’s surface, opposition occurs when an object rises in the east while the Sun sets in the west, causing the object and the Sun to be on opposite sides of the planet.
During Jupiter’s opposition, which occurs every 13 months, the planet appears brighter and larger. However, this time viewing Jupiter will be even more awesome. NASA explains that the Gas Giant will also be making its closest approach to Earth in 70 years! During the year, Earth and Jupiter pass each other at different distances because the planets do not orbit the Sun in perfect circles. Normally, Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition, which will make for spectacular views this year. The closest approach of Jupiter to Earth will be approximately 365 million miles. When it is at its furthest point from Earth, the massive planet is approximately 600 million miles away.
According to Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, “With good binoculars, you should be able to see the banding (at least the central band) and three or four Galilean satellites (moons). “It’s important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics. One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use,” Kobelski revealed.
The Great Red Spot and bands of Jupiter can be seen in greater detail through a larger telescope; a 4-inch telescope and some filters in the green to blue spectrum would improve visibility. The best viewing spots, according to Kobelski, are high up, dark, and dry terrain. Several days before and after Sept. 26 should be perfect for viewing, Kobelski revealed. The best time to view this sight would be on either side of the date, so take advantage of good weather. Aside from the Moon, the Gas Giant should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky,” the astrophysicist noted.
Despite Jupiter having 53 named moons, scientists have detected 79 moons in total. Known as Galilean satellites, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are the four largest moons circling the Gas Giant. Observed for the first time by Galileo Galilei in 1610, they are named after him. A telescope or binoculars will show the Galilean satellites as bright dots during opposition.
For six years, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has orbited Jupiter and studied its surface and moons. It took Juno five years to reach Jupiter after starting its journey in 2011. During the spacecraft’s mission to Jupiter since 2016, it has provided data and images about Jupiter’s energetic atmosphere, internal structures, internal magnetic field, and magnetosphere.
Jupiter’s study could yield breakthrough discoveries about how our solar system was formed, according to scientists. Juno’s mission has been extended until 2025 or until the spacecraft’s lifetime is over.
The Europa Clipper will be the next major project to explore Jupiter. Known for its icy shell, Jupiter’s iconic moon Europa will be explored by this spacecraft. Scientists at NASA believe Europa has a vast ocean beneath its surface and are trying to determine whether there is a possibility of life there. The mission is expected to launch towards the Jovian System in 2024.
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