Did you see Jupiter rising? The giant planet – the largest in our solar system – has been steadily shining in the night sky, rising before that over the past few months.
It came to a head on September 26, 2022 as it reached its annual “encounter,” the point in Earth’s orbit when we—in our much faster orbiting world—move at a position exactly between the Sun and Jupiter.
Since Jupiter takes 12 years to revolve around the sun, its opposition (as seen from Earth) occurs once every 13 months.
The effect is magical and lasts for a few weeks.
In addition to Jupiter appearing temporarily lit, with 100% of its disk observable by anyone with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope – the fifth planet far from the Sun is in an ideal position to be observed for extended periods.
Another advantage of being in “opposition” is that an exoplanet rises in the east at sunset and sets in the west at sunrise. So it’s “awake” all night long.
However, there is something very special about Jupiter’s opposition in 2022.
It will be exactly 593.6 million kilometers from Earth at the moment it is encountered, which is Its closest approach to Earth since 1963 And up to 2139, making this The “best” opposition in 166 years.
It will shine with a magnitude of -2.9, making it the brightest thing you can currently see in the night sky after sunset away from the moon.
The opposition of Jupiter will not go unnoticed. Any planet close to its opposite can be seen near the horizon in the early evening when many people are still outside. The result is that it is much more noticeable than when it is high in the sky in the middle of the night.
But take a closer look. With any pair of binoculars or even a small telescope pointed at Jupiter, you will see three or four of the large Galilean moons – Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Io.
Look just above Jupiter and you’ll also see a diamond-shaped constellation of four bright stars known as the “Great Square of Pegasus,” an asterisk (unofficially) within a larger constellation. Look far to the right and you’ll see Saturn, whose amazing ring pattern can be seen through any small telescope.
Jupiter will be bright and beautiful for at least the next few weeks before rising early and before then, and thus moving higher in the night sky. The giant planet will face opposition on November 3, 2023.
I wish you a clear sky and wide eyes.