Stargazers, at least those with clear skies and no rain, can expect some extraordinary views of Jupiter tonight, Monday, September 26th! The giant planet reaches opposition tonight with its closest approach to Earth in the last 59 years.
Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, making the planet appear larger and brighter than any other time of the year.
But this time, Jupiter will also make its closest approach to Earth in the last six decades. At its closest approach, Jupiter will be approximately 587 million kilometers in distance from Earth. At its farthest point, the massive planet is approximately 965 million kilometers away from our planet.
According to NASA, apart from the planetary giant, three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible as bright dots on either side of Jupiter during opposition, too. Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics, today we could see them with binoculars.
The views of Jupiter should be great for a few days before and after September 26.
Jupiter has 53 named moons, but scientists believe that 79 moons have been detected in total. The four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, are named after Galileo Galilei who first observed them in 1610.
While Earth takes around 365 days to orbit the Sun, Jupiter completes an orbit every 12 Earth years.
Scientists believe studying Jupiter can lead to breakthrough discoveries about the formation of the solar system.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter for six years, is dedicated to exploring the planet’s surface and its moons.