Discovering Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth in 70 years

The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, will come closer to Earth than it has in 70 years on September 26th, NASA said in a blog post.

According to the article, “stargazers may enjoy superb views of Jupiter the whole night of Monday, September 26” when the huge planet reaches opposition on that day.

According to NASA, from Earth’s vantage point, an astronomical object is in opposition to the Sun when it rises on the opposite side of the planet from where the Sun sets.

Once every 13 months, Jupiter will be in opposition, appearing bigger and brighter than at any other time of the year.

This is not all, though. It will also be Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth in the previous 70 years, according to NASA.

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Because neither Jupiter nor Earth follows a perfectly round path around the Sun, the two planets will pass each other at somewhat varying distances at different times of the year.

Discovering Jupiter's closest approach to Earth in 70 years

As of that time, Jupiter will be around 365 million miles from Earth, according to NASA. The planet is around 600,000,000 kilometers from Earth at its furthest.

Research astronomer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Adam Kobelski, says that with decent binoculars, you should be able to see the banding (at least the center band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons).

Kobelski suggests a bigger telescope (4 inches or more) with filters in the green to the blue range to improve the vision of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands.

Kobelski suggests looking for a dark, dry spot at a high altitude.

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After September 26th, “the vistas should be fantastic for a few days,” Kobelski said. If the weather forecast calls for excellent conditions before or after this day, make sure to take advantage of them. Aside from the Moon, “it ought to be one of (if not the) brightest things in the night sky,” he added.

Even though Jupiter has 53 officially recognized moons, astronomers estimate that 79 moons have been seen in total. Galilean satellites are the four biggest moons, which are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Galileo Galilei, who made the initial observation in 1610, gets the credit for naming them.

Juno, a NASA spacecraft that has been in orbit around Jupiter for the past six years, is now researching the planet and its moons. The lifespan of the Juno spacecraft has been extended until at least 2025.

Researchers are hopeful that new information about how our solar system formed might be gleaned by studying Jupiter.



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