Jupiter, Earth will be closest in 59 years: Don't miss
Stargazers can expect incredible views of Jupiter on Monday (September 26). The gas giant is set to make its closest approach to Earth in the last 59 years. On the same day, Jupiter will be directly opposite the Sun when viewed from the Earth. This astronomical arrangement is known as 'opposition.' Jupiter will be unusually bright and large during this time.
- Jupiter has fascinated both backyard astronomers and scientists for a long time. Many believe that the gas behemoth has answers to our questions about the formation of the solar system.
- When it makes its closest approach to Earth on September 26, it will be a good chance for all of us to witness it in detail. We never know when it will happen again.
Opposition occurs when an astronomical object rises in the East as the Sun sets in the West, as viewed from the Earth's surface. This phenomenon places Earth between the Sun and the object. In Jupiter's case, 'opposition' is nothing new. It happens every 13 months. The gas giant's closest approach to Earth or perigee happens roughly once a year.
Jupiter's closest approach to Earth this year has coincided with Opposition. This phenomenon is quite rare. This will result in Jupiter being at its closest to us in the last 59 years on September 26. The distance between Jupiter and our planet will be roughly 367 million km at its closest approach. At its farthest, Jupiter is around 600 million km away from Earth.
Jupiter's closest approach to Earth and opposition falling on the same day means that the planet will appear unusually bright and large. Stargazers with good binoculars or small telescopes will be able to see the planet in all its glory for several days before and after the milestones. Pick a site with a higher elevation, dark skies, and dry weather to improve Jupiter's visibility.
According to Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center, stargazers with good binoculars will be able to see Jupiter's banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites. With a larger telescope, the planet's Great Red Spot and bands should be visible. For instance, a 4-inch-or-larger telescope with some filters in the green to blue range.