Jupiter will appear in our night sky bigger and brighter this Monday, September 26 as it reaches opposition, making its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60 years. This simply means that the planet will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west, putting Jupiter and the Sun on opposite sides of the Earth. It is an astronomical event known as opposition. It will be located about 590 million kilometers from Earth and it will be a fabulous opportunity to see it in our sky.
Why is this opposition special?
Although the opposition of Jupiter takes place every 13 months (it is not a rarity, therefore), this one in particular, next Monday night, is unique. The reason is that the Earth and Jupiter do not go around the Sun in perfect circles, which means that they pass each other at different distances throughout the year. They are variable distances . The peculiarity of this occasion is that the closest approach of Jupiter to the Earth almost never coincides with the opposition; but this time it does coincide with perigee, which means that this year’s views will be “extraordinary”, according to NASA.
As a result, the gas giant planet will be unusually bright and large in the sky, offering a unique opportunity for its observation and an unparalleled occasion for amateur astrophotographers.
“Views should be great for a few days before and after September 26,” Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, said in a NASA statement. “So take advantage of the good weather on either side of this date to enjoy the view. Outside of the moon, it should be one of (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”
You can see it with binoculars or a small telescope, but you can also see it with the naked eye. The ideal, whenever we want to contemplate the night sky, is to find a site with good elevation, dark skies and dry weather that will improve the visibility of the planet.
“With good binoculars, the bands (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” says Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. in the press release. “It is 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.”
So remember, removing the Moon, Jupiter will become one of the brightest objects in our night sky (if not the brightest) during opposition. Normally, at its furthest point, Jupiter is about 960 million km from Earth . It will now be about 590 million kilometers away. The last time Jupiter was this close to our planet, and the last time skywatchers could see it this big and bright in the sky, was in October 1963.
Referencia: Jupiter to Reach Opposition, Closest Approach to Earth in 59 Years! NASA Press Release