Extraordinary views of Jupiter are on the cards this week, according to space experts NASA, as the gas giant makes its closest approach to earth in the last 59 years.
The oldest planet in the solar system is due to ‘reach opposition’ on Monday (September 26) which is when, as Jupiter rises in the east, the sun is setting in the west - putting them at opposite sides of Earth.
This positioning will make the largest planet in the solar system appear bigger and brighter in the night sky.
This opposition does occur every 13 months but, because the planets do not orbit the sun in perfect circles, they pass each other at varying distances so it’s rare for Jupiter to be so near Earth.
Tomorrow night will see the fifth planet from the sun come closer to earth than it has done in almost six decades - a distance of just 367 million miles away. And while that still seems quite a stretch, to put it into perspective, at its farthest point it can be as much as 600 million miles away.
How to see Jupiter’s close approach to earth
The best spot for getting a good view of the celestial phenomenon is somewhere high, dark and dry, according to NASA experts.
When you have found your ideal location, look to the eastern horizon around sunset and you should be able to see the planet with the naked eye - not including the moon, Jupiter is likely to appear as the brightest object in the sky.
Research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Adam Kobelski, said: “With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible.
“It’s important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics. One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use.”
For enhanced visibility though, Kobelski recommends using a four-inch telescope or bigger, with filters in the green to blue range. This would mean you can see things such as Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and the bands in more detail.
When can you see Jupiter at its closest?
Although Monday will see the approach at its peak, the days surrounding that date will also show Jupiter at close quarters too.
So if you are unable to go out stargazing tomorrow, or the weather doesn’t allow for good visibility, you should still get a good view for the rest of the week.