Jupiter to reach closest point to Earth in 60 years while in opposition: Here’s when to catch rare moment
(NEXSTAR) – For the first time in nearly 60 years, Jupiter will be as close to Earth as possible on Monday, Sept. 26, as it reaches opposition, giving stargazers a rare stunning view of the largest planet in our solar system.
According to NASA, Earth and Jupiter are separated by about 600 million miles at their furthest point. Throughout the year, both planets pass each other at different distances because their orbits around the Sun aren’t perfect circles.
On Monday, Jupiter and Earth will be as close as possible, coming within roughly 367 million miles of each other. The two planets haven’t been this close since 1963, NASA says.
This close passing is extra special this time, though – Jupiter will be reaching opposition at the same time.
Opposition, NASA explains, occurs when an object in space – like the giant planet of Jupiter – appears on one side of Earth and the Sun appears on the other.
Jupiter reaches opposition every 13 months. During this time, the planet appears larger and brighter than at other times of the year. Combine its opposition with its closest possible approach to Earth and you’ve got a stunning sight to see in the night sky.
With just binoculars, Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, says you should be able to see some of Jupiter’s bands and a few of its moons on Monday. With a telescope, Jupiter’s features will be even more visible.
Kobelski recommends finding a dark, dry spot at a higher elevation to view Jupiter.
If the weather isn’t favorable for stargazing on Monday, you should still be able to get a breathtaking view of Jupiter in the days before and after its peak.
Last month, the world’s newest and largest space telescope, the James Webb, captured never-before-seen views of Jupiter’s auroras and tiny moons.
The James Webb Space Telescope took the photos in July, capturing unprecedented images of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, and swirling polar haze. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm big enough to swallow Earth, stands out brightly alongside countless smaller storms.
One wide-field picture is particularly dramatic, showing the faint rings around the planet, as well as two tiny moons against a glittering background of galaxies.
“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all quite incredible,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, who helped lead the observations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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