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CosmosUp | March 30, 2020

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Stargazers: Tonight Is The Best View Of Jupiter In Years

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Stargazers: Tonight Is The Best View Of Jupiter In Years

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 the sun, Earth and Jupiter are lined up in a straight line with Earth in the middle, thus means that Jupiter and the sun will be on opposite sides of the sky, when sun sets in the west, Jupiter will rise in the east. The phenomena is called Jupiter opposition.

Opposition is the best time to see Jupiter, as its come at only 413 million miles (664 million kilometers) away from Earth. Its the closest approach to our planet — making it appear at its brightest and largest, a circumstance that only occurs every thirteen months (Well, 399 days to be exact.)

The gas giant is both at its closest point to the Earth as well as fully illuminated by the Sun from our point of view. These effects together will ensure that Jupiter is looking its best,

explains Dr Alan Duffy.

It will also be easily the brightest object in the night sky after Venus sets along with the Sun, so Jupiter should be easy to see rising on the opposite side of the sky from the setting Sun,

Jupiter Will rise in the east at sunset and it will be three times more luminous than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (See Top 5 Brightest Stars As Seen From Earth) and not setting until the sky brightens with the twilight hues of sunrise on March 9th.

Even at its closest approach to our planet, however, it can not be seen with the naked eye but a pair of binoculars would work.

You don’t have to have a telescope to be able to see it and if its cloudy tonight it doesn’t matter because we should be able to see it and its moons for several weeks. From sunset to sunrise you’ll be able to see it and then gradually as it orbits, we’ll be able to see it for a shorter and shorter amount of time until it is no longer in opposition to the sun. It looks like the brightest star in the east, but it is just the planet. It is going to be in a really good position all month.

Mary Spicer explained.

  Jupiter is 300 times as massive as the earth and is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. It has four moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. With a decent telescope you’ll be able to see the cloud of Jupiter’s thick atmosphere – including the ‘cyclone’ known as the Great Red Spot and even its four moon.

Spicer added:

Because it is made up mainly of gases you will be able to see it really clearly because the sun will reflect onto it. The planet does not have its own light source, so the reason why it looks like a bright star is because it is directly opposite the sun. At some point two of the moons should cross one another. So it will look like a really bright star in front of Jupiter.

Right now, NASA’s solar powered Juno spacecraft is zooming towards Jupiter. It will fly so close to Jupiter that the spacecraft should weave through a gap that exists between the radiation belt and Jupiter’s atmosphere. Researchers expect Juno to find something exotic deep inside the giant planet.

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