Stargazers around the world will get a great view of Jupiter Monday night, weather permitting.
The solar system’s largest planet will be unusually close to Earth on Sept. 26, astronomers said. According to NASA, it is the first time in 59 years that Jupiter has been so close to Earth.
The gas giant will reach opposition that night when it will rise in the east while the sun sets in the west, placing the planet and sun on opposite sides of the Earth. The dynamics, NASA scientists say, make for a rare and extraordinary view of the giant planet.
Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, making the planet appear larger and brighter than at any other time of year, according to NASA.
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At its closest approach, scientists say, Jupiter will be about 367 million miles from Earth, about the same distance it was in 1963.
The massive planet is about 600 million miles from Earth at its furthest point.
Binoculars and banding
“With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” said Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “It is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics. One of the most important needs is a stable mount for any system you use.”
Kobelski recommends using a larger telescope to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands in more detail; a telescope of 4 inches or larger and some filters in the green to blue range would improve the visibility of these features.
An ideal viewing location is at high altitudes in a dark and dry area, Kobelski said.