On September. 26, Stargazers can expect excellent views of Jupiter the whole nightwhen the gioant planet comes closer to Earth, the closest in 70 years.
“With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” said a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “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.”
The brilliant view comes because of the planet’s opposition. From the viewpoint of Earth’s surface, opposition happens when an astronomical object rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west, placing the object and the Sun on opposite sides of Earth.
Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, making the planet appear larger and brighter than any other time of the year. Jupiter will also make its closest approach to Earth in the last 70 years. This happens because Earth and Jupiter do not orbit the Sun in perfect circles – meaning the planets will pass each other at different distances throughout the year. Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition, which means this year’s views will be extraordinary. At its closest approach, Jupiter will be approximately 365 million miles in distance from Earth. The massive planet is approximately 600 million miles away from Earth at its farthest point.
JUPITER; THE VIEW
Kobelski recommends 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 blue range would enhance the visibility of these features. He said that the ideal viewing location would be at a high elevation in a dark and dry area.
“The views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26,” Kobelski said. “So, take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in the sight. Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”