Jupiter closest to Earth
New Webb images of Jupiter highlighting the planet's features, including its turbulent Great Red Spot (shown in white here) | Photo Courtesy: NASA

Jupiter to be closest to Earth in 70 years on Sept 26

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, will be the closest to the Earth on September 26, said NASA in a blog post. This will be the planet’s closest approach to Earth in the last 70 years.

According to NASA: “Stargazers can expect excellent views of Jupiter the entire night of Monday, September 26, when the giant planet reaches opposition.”

Opposition happens when an astronomical object rises in the Earth’s east as the Sun sets in the west, thus placing both on opposite sides of Earth.

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Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, making the planet appear larger and brighter than any other time of the year.

What’s special this time around is that the planet will make its closest approach to the Earth in the last 70 years while being in opposition.

According to NASA, Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition as both planets do not orbit the Sun in perfect circles, which means both pass each other at different distances throughout the year.

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Jupiter, at its farthest, is 600 million miles away from Earth. On September 26, it will be only 365 million miles away from Earth.

Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, told the media that with good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible.

However, a larger telescope is recommended to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands in more detail. A four-inch or larger telescope and some filters in the green and blue range would help enhance the visibility of these features.

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An ideal viewing location, according to Kobelski, will be at a high elevation in a dark and dry area.

“The views should be great for a few days before and after September 26. So, take advantage of the good weather on either side of this date to take in sight. Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the brightest objects in the night sky,” said Kobelski.

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