Jupiter makes its closest approach to Earth in 59 years


On Monday, September 26, Jupiter it will appear larger and brighter in the night sky. First because the giant planet will reach opposition, meaning it will be at a point opposite the Sun from our vantage point, a phenomenon that occurs every 13 months. But also, because Jupiter will make its nearest approach on Earth for the past 59 years.

Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition, which means the views this year will be extraordinary, according to NASA. On Monday, it will be around 590 million km from Earth, roughly the same distance as it was in 1963. At its furthest point, the huge planet is 965 million km away.

“With good binoculars, the bands (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible”says Adam Kobelski, research astrophysicist at Marshall Space Flight Center NASA in Huntsville, Alabama (USA). “It is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics. One of the main needs will be stable support for whatever system is used.”he specifies.


Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Kobelski recommends a larger telescope to see the infamous Great Red Spot (a gigantic storm larger than Earth that lasts for hundreds of years) and Jupiter’s bands in more detail; a 4 inch or larger telescope and some filters in the green to blue range would improve the visibility of these features.

According to Kobelski, the ideal for observing is to be at a high altitude in a dark and dry area. A few days before or after Monday is also valid. Next to the Moon, Jupiter should be one of the brightest objects in the night sky, if not the brightest., precise. Also, using binoculars or a telescope, its four largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, the so-called Galilean satellites – should appear as bright spots on both sides of the planet.

In space, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been scanning the planet since 2016, providing incredible images and data about its atmosphere and interior. Scientists believe studying Jupiter could lead to groundbreaking discoveries about the formation of the solar system. In 2024 at the latest, the space agency will launch another spacecraft called Europa Clipper, which will explore one of its moons, Europa. Known for its icy shell and the vast ocean beneath its surface, NASA scientists are investigating whether it is capable of supporting life.

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Reference article: https://www.abc.es/ciencia/jupiter-alcanza-oposicion-mayor-aproximacion-tierra-anos-20220920145016-nt.html

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