With nights falling and the sun setting earlier each day, the autumn months offer excellent stargazing opportunities without the chill of winter.
Jupiter will go into opposition on September 26th of this year, but what exactly does it mean when we say a planet is in opposition? How do you recognize Jupiter in opposition? And in which constellation will Jupiter appear? Find answers to these and more below.
If you can still enjoy the warm weather and (relatively) clear nights, why not make the most of it with our UK full moon calendar and astronomy for beginners? And in case you missed it, we’ve rounded up the best images of 2022’s Harvest Moon.
What is opposition?
Opposition is essentially the planetary equivalent of a full moon. When a planet is near Earth and on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun, we describe that planet as being in opposition. The sunlight that shines on the planet is totally reflected, just as sunlight is totally reflected by the moon every 29.53 days in the lunar cycle.
While the outer planets orbit the Sun, Earth occasionally sits between the Sun and another planet, with all three in direct alignment. Because of their favorable position and brightness, oppositions often offer the best opportunity to observe and photograph a particular planet.
At Jupiter’s opposition, Earth lies directly between Jupiter and the Sun and remains in the sky above the horizon for most of the night.
Only those planets that are outside of Earth’s orbit can be in opposition, that is Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Since Mercury and Venus orbit the Sun within Earth’s orbit, they can never be in opposition.
When is Jupiter in opposition?
Jupiter reaches opposition on Monday 26 September 2022, when it is closest and brightest for the year, essentially creating a “full” Jupiter. The King of the Solar System will rise at sunset at 6:52 p.m. Monday, September 26 and remain above the horizon until setting at 6:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 27, 2022, as seen from London (The Times vary by location). .
Weather permitting, we are expected to be presented with a perfect view of Jupiter. When Jupiter reaches opposition, the gas giant will be approximately 591.3 million kilometers (3.95 AU) from Earth.
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What will you be able to see?
To the naked-eye observer, Jupiter appears as a very bright point of light that, unlike stars, does not twinkle. A decent pair of binoculars (7x to 10x magnification) will give you a view of Jupiter’s four largest moons, Ganymede, Europa, Callisto and Io, and with a telescope you can see Jupiter’s stripes.
Jupiter’s bands, the Great Red Spot, and even clouds can be seen through a telescope. Jupiter is spinning rapidly, and eagle eyes may even be able to spot the resulting slightly squashed appearance of its bright disk.
On Monday, September 26, at approximately 6:52 p.m., Jupiter will rise in the eastern sky in the constellation of Pisces. As the night progresses, the planet migrates eastward, reaching its highest point in the middle of the night before setting at sunrise and disappearing below the horizon at 6:57 a.m. the next day.
If you’re interested in astrophotography or want to create an animation of Jupiter, expert Pete Lawrence put together this handy guide to creating a planetary animation.
How can I spot Jupiter in the night sky?
Jupiter is one of the brightest objects in the night sky, making it relatively easy to spot even without a telescope. If you’re struggling with orientation, there are astronomy apps you can download – all you have to do is point your phone at the sky and the app will tell you which is which.
For those of you who prefer star hopping, face the southeast after sunset. Jupiter will rise in the constellation of Pisces, which can be seen everywhere except Antarctica. Although Pisces is a large constellation, its stars are relatively faint. However, its distinctive V-shape is one of the largest star formations in the sky.
You can find Pisces by first locating the Summer Triangle and tracing an imaginary line from bright star Vega and dividing the triangle perpendicular to the base composed of Altair and Deneb. This line points to the head of the western fish in Pisces. Jupiter will sit directly below western Pisces.
How often does resistance arise?
Each of the planets goes into opposition approximately annually. This is because the earth has a faster orbit and runs between these planets and the sun. The exception is Mars, which occurs about every 26 months because it’s relatively close to Earth in the solar system. Jupiter goes into opposition every 13 months.
Jupiter’s 12-year cycle
Jupiter lies within the zodiacal band of heaven and moves about 1/12 of its orbit each year (a single orbit takes about 12 years).
In other words, it takes Jupiter about 12 months to cross one of the zodiac signs and move on to the next. This means Jupiter goes into opposition every 13 months and the planet cycles through all the zodiac constellations over a 12-year period.
Like the other planets, Jupiter wanders west to east across the night sky against a backdrop of stars and distant galaxies. However, when in opposition, the planet also enters a period of apparent retrograde motion when it appears to be moving backwards for a period of time.
Here are the constellations in which Jupiter will appear in the next 12-year cycle:
- 09/26/2022: fishes
- November 1, 2023: Aries
- December 6, 2024: bull
- January 9, 2026: Twins
- February 10, 2027: Lion
- March 13, 2028: Virgo
- April 13, 2029: Virgo
- May 14, 2030: Scale
- June 16, 2031: Ophiuchus
- July 20, 2032: Protect
- Aug 25, 2033: Aquarius
- October 2, 2034: Back to Pisces
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