upiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will come the closest it has to Earth in 59 years on Monday. The gaseous giant will be visible as it coincides with another event called ‘opposition’.
The phenomenon happens every 13 months, as Jupiter appears brighter than any other time of the year. But, the planet has been coming closer to Earth since 1963. Due to Earth and Jupiter’s differing orbits around the Sun, they do not pass each other at the same distance each time. When it is closest to Earth on Monday, Jupiter will be about 367 million miles from Earth, according to NASA. Jupiter is approximately 600 million miles away from Earth at its farthest point.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), opposition occurs when any astronomical object rises in the east as the Sun and sets in the west, placing the object and the Sun on opposite sides of Earth.
Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition, meaning tonight’s view will be extraordinary. Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said the banding and three or four Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible with good binoculars.
In an official statement by the American Space Agency, Kobelski stated that it is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics. One of the key needs for viewing this will be a stable mount for whatever system one may use. He also recommended using a larger telescope to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands in more detail. A 4-inch-or-larger telescope and some filters in the green to the blue range would enhance the visibility of these features.
Kobleski also added that the views should be great for a few days before and after Monday. Besides Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.
NASA, on Saturday, took to Twitter to inform the stargazers about this upcoming event. The space agency wrote, “Stargazers: Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 59 years! Weather-permitting, expect excellent views on Sept. 26. A good pair of binoculars should be enough to catch some details; you’ll need a large telescope to see the Great Red Spot.”