Jupiter’s status as the largest planet in our solar system has long made the celestial body a top target for skywatchers around the globe. Now, the planet is about to make its closest approach to Earth in nearly six decades, creating one of the largest (literally speaking) spectacles for fans of the cosmos.
Because Earth and Jupiter don’t technically orbit the Sun in perfect circles, the planets pass each other at varying distances dependent on the time of year. Come Monday, September 26th, Jupiter’s orbit will place it within 367 million miles from our planet, the closest it’s been since 1963.
“With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama wrote in a blog post Monday. “It’s 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.”
How do I see Jupiter with my telescope?
Despite being the largest item in the night sky, officials recommend getting a larger telescope at least 4″ or bigger. Then travel to somewhere at a high elevation and have at it.
“The views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26,” he added. “So, take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in the sight. Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”
Will I be able to see any other planets?
According to Nasa, “Jupiter has 53 named moons, but scientists believe that 79 moons have been detected in total. The four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, are called the Galilean satellites.” If you’re able to spot Jupiter with your telescope, the largest moons should appear as bright dots on either side of Jupiter during the event.