On June 10th, our planet Earth passes in between the Sun and the outer planet Jupiter. Imagine that Jupiter and the Sun are on opposite ends of a straight line with Earth and Moon in between. Astronomers call this event an opposition of Jupiter.
It’s a great time to observe the giant planet. Jupiter rises at sunset and stays up all night long. This is also the time when Jupiter is closest to Earth. On June 10th, 2019 Earth and Jupiter will have a close encounter at only 398 million miles apart (640 million km). Earth-Jupiter close encounters happen every 13 months when the Earth’s orbit laps Jupiter’s orbit in their race around the Sun.
The view through a backyard telescope is excellent. The Great Red Spot, located in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter, is a cyclone wider than Earth and has existed for hundreds of years. It is easily recognisable among the planet’s alternating cloud belts. Even now, more than 3 weeks before opposition, the view is superb.
If it’s cloudy on the night of June 10, don’t despair. Jupiter will still be close over the following weeks, only about 3 percent farther away a month after opposition. Right now Jupiter graces the night sky, so go outside and enjoy the show.
Image credit: NASA
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