On May 9th Jupiter reaches opposition, when it shines brightest and appears largest. The solar system is lined up so that Jupiter, Earth and the sun form a straight line with Earth in the middle.
The King Planet will appear highest overhead at midnight.
Earth-Jupiter close encounters happen every 13 months when the Earth’s orbit laps Jupiter’s orbit in their race around the sun. Astronomers call these events “oppositions of Jupiter” because Jupiter and the Sun are on opposite sides of the sky.
In 2018, Jupiter comes closest to Earth one day after its opposition date, on May 10, coming to within 409 million miles (658 million km) of Earth.
Through binoculars, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Through a telescope, Jupiter’s cloud belts and zones are easily visible, and the Great Red Spot can be seen beginning its transit–or crossing-of the disk every 10 hours.
Clips, images credit: ESO, ESA/HUBBLE & NASA
Music credit: YouTube Audio Library
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