Planet Jupiter will be at its closest distance from Earth on Thursday, two days after “Jupiter at opposition.”.
Jupiter at opposition astronomical phenomenon happens when the planet is exactly opposite to the Sun in the sky. With the Earth in the middle of the two astronomical objects, eager viewers will be able to see Jupiter with their eyes.
At its closest, Jupiter reportedly comes to within 658 million kilometers from Earth.
With small telescopes, observers can reportedly see the cloud bands in Jupiter’s atmosphere, as well as its four largest moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Europa and Io).
A planet beyond Earth’s orbit, such as Jupiter, is known as a superior planet, and the closest approach of a superior planet is called opposition. This is because the sun is always 180° away from the planet at the moment of its closest approach. In effect, the sun, Earth and the planet in question all line up with Earth in the middle.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and takes almost a dozen years to orbit the sun. Earth travels faster on its shorter orbit, catching up with Jupiter and creating an opposition every 399 days.
On 8 May, Jupiter was 5.4 times further from the sun than Earth, meaning it will be 6.6m kilometres (4m miles) away. At opposition, Jupiter is brighter than at any other time. This year, the planet will lie in the constellation of Libra.
Although the opposition occurred on May 8, the gas giant will be closest to Earth on May 10 because the two astronomical objects are both orbiting elliptically. Therefore, their distances from the Sun vary.
This means a few things. First, we’re closer to Jupiter than we are at any other time. This means that Jupiter is both brighter and, if you have a telescope, a bit bigger than it usually is. Second, it means that Jupiter is as high in the sky as it will get right at local midnight (which is generally some time close to local 12:00AM).
If Jupiter is opposite the Sun, that means it will be rising in the East right as the Sun is setting in the West. Look for a very bright “star” in the Eastern sky a bit after Sunset. if you’re up after midnight, the very bright “star” that is nearly overhead is Jupiter. It’s not a UFO; it’s the planet Jupiter.