Tonight, Jupiter will be closest to Earth in 59 years

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This night is one of the most anticipated events of the year by astronomers and sky watchers. Jupiter will be in a rare best observation position, closest to Earth since 1963. From 9pm (CEST time), the planet will be simultaneously at opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky). Closest distance to Earth in its revolution. It is so close that even the naked eye can see it. Its four main natural satellites can be seen using a simple pair of binoculars. Those with very good binoculars or semi-technical binoculars can observe long white bands on the planet’s surface and its characteristic large red spots. For a few days, Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky after the Moon.

Jupiter reaches opposition approximately every 13 months. At this time, the planet appears larger and brighter in the sky than at any other time of the year, and rises in the east while the sun sets in the west (hence the term “opposition”). But this week will be truly exceptional, as the gas giant finds itself in a configuration it hasn’t seen since 1963, when resistance barely coincides with its closest point, 367 million kilometers from Earth. Like all other planets in the Solar System, its elliptical orbit allows it to approach and pass (or move away from) its sisters as it orbits the Sun. So its distance from Earth varies from 367 to 600 million kilometers.

This week (after the Moon) Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky and will be in a part of the night sky with relatively few stars. Also, after the last new moon, the sky is darker than usual. ” Visibility should be good for a few days before and after September 26 “, declares in contacted NASA Adam Kobelski is a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama (USA).

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How to observe it?

Although it will be visible throughout the night for several days, the best time to observe Jupiter is around midnight, when the night sky is most “neutral.” It is best to move away from the city to avoid it as much as possible Pollution Bright. All that remains is to hope that the weather will be pleasant later. If you want to see it at sunset, stand with your back to the sun and look at the horizon.

To observe the gas giant, professional equipment is not needed, because it is so bright that, with the naked eye, it can be mistaken for an airplane. Using a pair of simple binoculars mounted on a fixed support, the star can be seen as a luminous disk around which its four main natural satellites (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) can be seen, first observed by Galileo. Time in 1610 through a simple astronomical telescope. During the nights following the event, the position of these moons can be observed to change.

That means Jupiter has a total of 79 moons, of which only 53 are named. Its four largest are called Galilean in honor of Galileo, who first observed them. Completing a full orbit around the gas giant in just a few days, these four satellites appear as bright spots on either side of the planet during opposition.

With powerful binoculars or semi-professional binoculars, the atmospheric bands and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot can be seen. ” With good binoculars, the bands (at least the central band) and three or four Galilean satellites are visible “, Kobelski assures. Visibility is even better with binoculars equipped with green-to-blue filters.

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