Jupiter is coming its closest to Earth in nearly 60 years
Why it matters: The event will coincide with the gas giant's "opposition," when it orbits to the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. It will appear larger and brighter than any other time of year.
- With clear weather, Jupiter is expected one of the brightest objects in the sky for the next few nights.
What they're saying: People should be able to see three or four of Jupiter's Galilean moons with binoculars, Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said earlier this month.
- With a 4 inch-or-larger telescope, viewers should also be able to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands.
- “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," Kobelski added.
Jupiter reaches its opposition with Earth every 13 months, though it rarely reaches opposition during its closest approach, NASA said.
- It's possible for Jupiter to approach Earth more closely than usual because the two planets do not orbit the Sun in perfect circles, meaning they "pass each other at different distances throughout the year," per NASA.
- At its farthest point, Jupiter is around 600 million miles away from Earth.
- The moon is one of the best places to search for potential life in the solar system outside Earth, as its subsurface ocean could be habitable.
- Juno is expected to obtained the highest-resolution images ever taken of portions of Europa’s ice crust while collecting data on the composition of its surface and interior.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional background.