Jupiter Is so Close This Week You Can See Its Moons Without a Telescope
Jupiter is in opposition this week, meaning it is reaching its closest orbit to the Earth.
The gas giant, at more than 1,300 times the Earth's size, will be brighter and easier to spot in the night sky, compared to other times of the year.
Yesterday, Jupiter was in direct opposition. This means the Earth was positioned exactly between the Sun and the giant planet.
The Earth, however, won't be at its closest distance to Jupiter until June 12, 2019, due to the fact that planets are elliptical, not circular — so the Earth still needs a little time to get to the very closest point.
All of this means that Jupiter will be at its biggest and brightest and it will be the best possible time to see it with the naked eye.
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If you want to see a little more detail, however, a simple pair of binoculars will be enough to see several of its 79 known moons on either side of the planet. A telescope, meanwhile, should allow even more detail, such as the patterns of Jupiter's cloud bands.
Here's how to view Jupiter
It will be easy to locate Jupiter; it is the very brightest star in the night sky by a distance. Especially at this time of the year.
The planet rises in the east at sunset, climbs high through the sky throughout the night, and goes down in the west in the morning.
Though the gas giant starts to rise at dusk, it will likely be at its most visible around 11.30 p.m. for observers looking low in the southeast sky.
Jupiter will also be visibly floating just to the left of red star, Antares.
Catch it while you can
This cosmic event doesn't happen at the same time every year. Due to Jupiter's comparatively slower orbit around the Sun, Jupiter's opposition comes around once every 13 months.
An evening of stargazing is definitely worth the time, as just a x10 pair of binoculars will be enough to see more than the four Jupiter moons usually visible - Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
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