Jupiter reaches opposition roughly every 13 months. These last years, I’ve loved observing it throughout the summer until it reaches its brightest point in the sky. It’s the largest planet of the solar system and it will make its closest approach to Earth since 1963 on the 26th September 2022. 2129 is the next time it will so close and thus so bright in Earth's sky. Eyes up if you're in the Northern Hemisphere! The show starts daily after the sun sets.
Jupiter has 53 catalogued moons and a whole bunch of other moon candidate thingies flying around that still need a scientific debate or two before settling their status. As much as 79 orbiting objects are currently being studied by humans around Jupiter. The giant gas planet will be brightest in the sky when it reaches this revolution’s opposition but it’s already very bright these days. No need to wait until the 26th.
These nights, the early evening is dominated by Jupiter’s rise in the southeastern sky just as darkness falls. It is bright enough to be seen from any location, even large light polluted urban areas. With a small telescope, standard binoculars or some serious photo gear, you can even get a glimpse at the Galilean satellites, the four largest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) of the Jupiter system named after the dude with the strange ideas who first observed them in 1610, Galileo Galilei.
According to NASA measurements, Jupiter is now approximately 365 million miles in distance from Earth. At its farthest point, the planet is approximately 600 million miles away from us. Take a few seconds to let the fact sink in that the light caught on this photo has traveled 365.000.000 miles (around 590.000.000 km). It’s at least as humbling as meditation to me :-)
If you like to get really really really high, you'll find more night sky stories in the LOOKING UP section of this blog.
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