Tonight might be the best night of the year to see Jupiter

11 Juin, 2019, 19:55 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Getty Images

To help you know what you're looking at, you can visit the astronomy magazine Sky and Telescope's interactive webpage on the moons of Jupiter.

Then on Wednesday, Jupiter will actually be at its closest point to Earth this year - at just 640,862,318 kilometres. Also, if a moon crosses in front of Jupiter - called a transit - it is lost in the planet's glare to those using binoculars.

In its blog on skywatching updates for the month, NASA wrote: "The solar system's largest planet is a brilliant jewel to the naked eye, but looks fantastic through binoculars or a small telescope, which will allow you to spot the four largest moons, and maybe even glimpse a hint of the banded clouds that encircle the planet".

Most significantly for space enthusiasts, opposition marks the year's most optimal Jupiter viewing conditions, enabling binocular-equipped watchers to easily spot the planet and perhaps even a few of its 79 moons. Opposition will occur at 6 p.m. (EST), but Jupiter will be at its peak (and best for viewing) around 11:30 this evening.

Jupiter can be seen sitting beneath the moon over the mountains of Utah in the image above.

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But only the four brightest - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - will be visible. During this period, the moon will form a slightly shifting lineup with Jupiter and Saturn, changing in tandem with its orbit around Earth. As NASA explains, "Although opposition takes place on a specific date, the entire month or so around opposition is an equally good time to observe the planet".

Famous for its awe-inspiring stripes and swirls, Jupiter is fifth in line from the sun and the largest planet in the solar system.

NASA added, the days between June 14 and 19, will be the best time for sky gazers to catch the most lovely celestial line-up of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.

"They look like tiny stars "sticking" to either side of the planet".

If you don't have time to search the skies tonight, don't worry too much. You will be able to see Jupiter well for several more weeks. The spacecraft was launched so scientists could study Jupiter's composition and evolution, and is now orbiting the planet.

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