Jupiter is at its closest to Earth for 60 years this weekend: it’s the best time to observe it!

In a few days, on September 26, the largest planet in the Solar System, JupiterJupiter, will be in opposition. This means that it will be aligned with the Earth and the SunSun and that you can admire it all night, more sparkling than ever in 2022. Why? Because this year, its opposition coincides, within a few hours, with its smallest distance from our Planet. It is indeed on September 25 that the gas giant will have reached the point of its orbitorbit closest to Earth. Only some 590 million kilometers. This hadn’t happened since 1963!

How to observe Jupiter?

It is therefore an excellent period for observing Jupiter. at theeyeeye naked of course, and/or with an instrument if you have one. If not, maybe you know someone who has a telescopetelescope or a telescope, or is there a structure near you that offers observation evenings to the public (astronomy club, astronomy center, certain planetariums, etc.). Otherwise, one solution is to target the giant planetgiant planet with a pair of binoculars it works very well, then you will see its four largest moonsmoons (of the 79 known): IoIoEurope, GanymedeGanymede and Callsito. You will also notice that this luminous point usually visible to the naked eye in the sky becomes a small disc (a sphere in reality) where one can discern, guess, cloud bands.

“We have never seen Jupiter like this! “: Unpublished images taken by the James-Webb telescope

These days, then, Jupiter appears in the eyepieceseyepieces a little larger than usual, for the pleasure of the curious and the astronomersastronomers amateurs (beginner or confirmed and heavily equipped) and the photos will rain on the social networkssocial networks. Many of them, after a lot of processing work, are very impressive for the richness of the details of the gas giant (different cloud bands and spots in the upper atmosphereatmosphere). Of course, as for each celestial observation, it is strongly advised to favor a site in the countryside, devoid of light pollutionlight pollution in order to make the most of it, in the dark of night. And the morestarstar will be high in the sky, the less it will be disturbed by the turbulenceturbulence atmospheric, so troublesome near the horizon.

Jupiter, ruler of the sky

Jupiter revolves around the Sun in 12 Earth years, which allows it to cross a constellationconstellation of the zodiac per year on average, which are aligned with theeclipticecliptic (the plane of the orbit of all the planets). Currently, the gas giant is in the PiscesPiscesabove the Whale’s tail and not far from NeptuneNeptune (discover Neptune observed by James-Webb) — view from Earth. But the latter, the farthest from the Sun, does not shine bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Dive into Jupiter’s gas vortices in 3D

Currently 590 million kilometers away (its average distance is 779 million kilometers), Jupiter necessarily shines a little brighter than in other years. You have probably already noticed it in the sky, sparkling, halfway between the horizon and the zenithzenith, above the southeast, in the late evening. As it is a planet, a celestial body relatively close to us (it is only 33 light-minutes away!) unlike the starsstarsJupiter does not twinkle.

For this period of opposition, the gas giant will reign supreme over the entire night, without Moon or VenusVenus to compete with him. It rises in the east, just opposite the setting Sun, then dips below the western horizon when the solar star returns. It makes for beautiful full nights to scrutinize it and follow the dance of its satellites.

Article of Xavier DemeersmannXavier Demeersmann published on June 10, 2019

In opposition on June 10, Jupiter is closest to Earth and visible all night. The Earth is right between the giant and the Sun. It’s time to enjoy it, with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.

Today, June 10, around 3 p.m. UT, or 5 p.m. Paris time, Jupiter was in opposition. In other words, the biggest planet in the Solar systemSolar system is aligned with the Sun and the Earth. It is therefore the best time to admire it, from dusk to dawn. And this year, it shines all the more as the distance which separates us from it is only 641 million kilometres. Passing from southeast to southwest, the gas giant peaks in the sky over the south around 1:30 a.m. Even the red Antares (magnitudemagnitude 1), which is not far away, looks very pale next to Jupiter (magnitude -2.6).

In 2019, the planet crosses the neighboring “house” of Scorpio, the Serpentarius, thirteenth constellation of the zodiac, also called Ophiuchus. Its stars draw the son of Apollo in Greek mythology Asclepius (Asculapius for the Romans). Having followed the teachings of the Centaur Chiron (Sagittarius is next), the hero was considered the master of snakes. He holds one in his hands. Currently, we can therefore see the “wandering star” (etymology of the word planet) sneaking near one of the two feet of Ophiuchus, at the edge of the hazehaze silver of the Milky WayMilky Waywhich we guess in the background, stained with dark cloudsclouds of dust. It’s a magnificent context, but it has the disadvantage that to our latitudeslatitudes medium, the gas giant is not very high above the horizon, its rays pass through a thick layer of the atmosphere which results in stronger turbulence and less sharp images, to the chagrin of amateur astronomers .

How to observe Jupiter?

deity of the lightlight, “thunderthrower” for Homer, Jupiter-Zeus (same etymology) fills all those curious about the sky who contemplate it. With a pair of binoculars, you will not be too bothered by the turbulence and you will enjoy the dance of its largest moons: Ganymede, CallistoCallisto, Europe and Io. These are its four Galilean satellites (GalileoGalileo was the first to observe them), four small diamondsdiamonds whose movements you can follow throughout the night.

In a telescope or telescope, with a higher magnification, you will marvel at looking at (or discovering) the belts ochresochres of the gas giant, the equatorial bands, and of course, the Great Red Spot. Known for three and a half centuries, this orange-red eye – a anticycloneanticyclone – intrigues astronomers by its nature and, more recently, by its observed large size changes. Not only is its size visibly shrinking (so to speak) but its edges seem to be crumbling and mixing with the equatorial band in recent weeks. Is the Great Red Spot disappearing?

Although in opposition today, Jupiter will remain visible every summer evening. And on several occasions, the Moon will come to keep him company (a conjunctionconjunction), as on June 16th.

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