When, Where And How To See Jupiter At Its Biggest, Brightest And Best In 166 Years

Did you see Jupiter rise? The giant planet – the largest in our solar system – has steadily brightened in our night sky in recent months, rising earlier and earlier.

It comes to a head on September 26, 2022, when it reaches its annual “opposition,” the point in Earth’s orbit where we—on our much faster-moving world—move to a position halfway between the Sun and Jupiter.

Since it takes Jupiter 12 years to orbit the Sun, its opposition (as seen from Earth) occurs once every 13 months.

The effect is captivating and lasts for a few weeks.

Like Jupiter, which briefly appears illuminated and 100% of its disk is visible to anyone with binoculars or a small telescope, the fifth planet is perfectly positioned from the sun to be observed over long periods of time.

Another benefit of “opposition” is that an outer planet rises in the east at sunset and sets in the west at sunrise. So it’s “up” all night.

However, Jupiter’s opposition in 2022 is very special.

It will be exactly 593.6 million kilometers from Earth at the moment of opposition, which is its closest approach to Earth since 1963 and through 2139, making this the “best” opposition in 166 years.

It will shine with a magnitude of -2.9, making it the brightest thing you can currently see in the night sky after sunset, along with the Moon.

Jupiter’s resistance will not go unnoticed. Any planet near its opposition is visible near the horizon in early evening when many people are still out. The result is that it’s much more noticeable than when it’s high in the sky in the middle of the night.

But take a closer look. With any pair of binoculars, or even a tiny telescope pointed at Jupiter, you can see three or four of its large Galilean moons – Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Io.

Look directly over Jupiter and you’ll also see a diamond-shaped constellation of four bright stars known as the Great Square of Pegasus, an asterism (unofficial shape) within a larger constellation. Look far to the right and you will see Saturn, whose incredible ring pattern is visible through any small telescope.

Jupiter will be bright and beautiful for at least the next few weeks before rising earlier and higher, moving higher in the night sky. The giant planet will next go into opposition on November 3, 2023.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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