So close you can count its moons


NASA reports that this glimpse of Jupiter's largest moons happens about once a year.

Opposition means that as Earth whirls around the Sun once every 365 days, the outer planets revolve a lot slower.

To locate Jupiter, simply look to the southeast and find the brightest object in the sky, excluding Venus and the moon, as Inverse's Scott Snowden points out.

"The Earth will basically be exactly between Jupiter and the sun, so the gas giant will be visible in the night sky from dusk until dawn", AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.

Those with binoculars would be able to see the shape of the planet and its four brightest moons - those discovered by Galileo, he noted - while a telescope would afford more detail. With a small telescope or maybe even binoculars, you might be able to spot the planet's four largest moons and possibly even the bands of clouds around the gas giant. Although the precise moment of opposition will take place at 6 p.m.

According to a CNN report, Dr Robert Massey, Deputy Executive Director, Royal Astronomical Society, Britain, came out with a guide for novice sky gazers on how to spot the planet more easily.

If you look up and see something extraordinarily brilliant, shining but not twinkling, above the horizon, rest assured it is Jupiter. Waiting will also provide you with a darker sky.

If you don't have time to search the skies tonight, don't worry too much.

"Jupiter will actually be visible all summer and it will be the brightest thing in the night sky all summer", he said.

The planet is its own little solar system, and should be visible to the naked eye.

Between June 14 and 19, Jupiter will be at the center of another celestial event.

On Wednesday, Jupiter will be at its actual closest to Earth all year, a mere 640,862,318 kms away.

Although this arguably does not sound like some people's concept of close, the Earth's average distance to this gargantuan planet is 488,000,000 miles. "These differing orbital periods allow us to go between the Sun and Jupiter yearly (approximately every 13 months), making it appear, from Earth, that Jupiter is opposite to the Sun", explains The Weather Network meteorologist Erin Wenckstern.