Have you ever seen Jupiter rising? The giant planet, the largest in the solar system, has always shone in the night sky, but in recent months it has been rising faster than usual.
It will reach its peak on September 27, 2022 Japan time, when it reaches its annual opposition. This is the position where the Earth is exactly halfway between the Sun and Jupiter in its orbit.
Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun, so opposition (as seen from Earth) occurs every 13 months and lasts for several weeks.
Jupiter not only flashes for a moment, but its 100% round shape can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope. The fifth planet from the Sun is in an ideal position for long-term observations.
Another advantage of being in opposition is that exoplanets such as Jupiter rise in the east at sunset and set in the west at sunrise. That is, “out” all night.
But there is something very special about Jupiter’s opposition in 2022.
At this moment of opposition, Jupiter’s position is exactly 59360 kilometers from Earth, which is the closest position between 1963 and 2139, hence the “best” position once in 166 years.
At that time, Jupiter will shine at a magnitude of -2.9, making it the brightest object in the night sky after sunset other than the Moon.
Stunningly detailed image of Jupiter from the James Webb Space Telescope. Filtered by aurora reflections from ionized hydrogen (mapped in the red channel), the aurora oval is shown extending into high latitudes to Jupiter’s north and south poles (NASA, EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY, JUPITER EARLY RELEASE SCIENCE TEAM. PROCESSING IMAGE: JUDY SCHMIDT)
Jupiter’s opposition will not go unnoticed. Jupiter is visible near the horizon at night when most people are still outside. That is why it is seen by so many more people than when it is high in the sky late at night.
But take a good look. Point your binoculars or small telescope at Jupiter and you should be able to see three or four of the larger Galilean moons: Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and Io.
Just above Jupiter is Pegasus Major Quadrilateral, a diamond-shaped constellation of four bright stars. Asterism (cluster of stars) in a large constellation. Looking far to the right of it is Saturn. Its amazing ring pattern can be seen with any small telescope.
Jupiter will remain bright and beautiful for at least the next few weeks, after which it will gradually rise faster and move higher in the night sky. The next time the giant planet will come into opposition is November 3, 2023.
Wishes for clear skies and big eyes.