Illinois Skywatchers Can Get A Look At Jupiter This Weekend


Over the next 4 days the planet Jupiter will be at its closest point to Earth since 1963 and it looks like visibility conditions over northern Illinois will be really excellent for those who want to take some time and get a good look .

According to Space.com experts, Jupiter will be unusually bright and large in the sky and will be in a prime position for skygazers with binoculars or a small telescope for several days, with Jupiter reaching its closest point to Earth on Monday, September 26th.

Jupiter has been slowly and steadily brightening the night sky over northern Illinois for months, reaching its closest approach to Earth in 59 years

Unable to keep up with planetary calendars and timetables, I didn’t realize until this morning that Earth takes 365 days to orbit the Sun, while Jupiter is all about setting its own pace and takes 12 years (4,333 Earth days) to do it.

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And right now is one of the best times to get a glimpse of the largest planet in our solar system, for a number of reasons.

On Monday, Jupiter will be in so-called “opposition.”

Opposition means that Jupiter is directly opposite the Sun as seen from Earth, which is not rare or unusual. NASA says Jupiter is in opposition to Earth every 13 months, and the next time next Monday, April 26.

What makes this whole event better for viewing is that Jupiter will also be closest to Earth on Sunday the 25th – which is highly unusual according to Forbes.com:

Another benefit of “opposition” is that an outer planet rises in the east at sunset and sets in the west at sunrise. So it’s “up” all night. It will be exactly 593.6 million kilometers from Earth at the moment of opposition, which is its closest approach to Earth since 1963 and until 2139. This is the “best” opposition for 166 years.

You will need binoculars or a telescope to get the full experience

But what I read from various sources is that you might be overwhelmed by what you will see. Not only do you get a great view of Jupiter, you should also be able to see some of Jupiter’s 79 moons.

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NASA.gov:

“With good binoculars, the streaks (at least the middle band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” said Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “It is important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics. One of the most important requirements will be a stable mount for whatever system you use.”

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