Jupiter to make the closest approach to Earth in 59 years today

Stargazers can expect excellent views of Jupiter the entire night of Monday.


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On Monday, Sept. 26, Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth since 1963. Jupiter will be 367 million miles away from Earth when it makes its closest approach, which is around the same distance as in 1963.

Rarely does Jupiter‘s closest approach to Earth coincide with its opposition, so this year’s views will be exceptional. Opposition occurs when an astronomical object rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west, placing the object and the Sun on opposite sides of Earth from the perspective of the planet’s surface.

Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said, “With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible. It is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics. One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use.”

To see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands in greater detail, Kobelski advises using a giant telescope. A 4-inch or larger telescope and some filters in the green to blue spectrum might improve the visibility of these features.

Kobelski said, “The views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26. So, take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in sight. Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”