WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Over the next few days, you have a rare opportunity to see Jupiter up close, at least as close as it has been since 1963.
NASA says the planet will make its closest approach to Earth in almost 60 years, and the best viewing will be the entire night of Monday, Sept. 26.
“The views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26,” Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said. “So, take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in the sight. Outside of the moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”
He also says the ideal viewing location will be a high elevation in a dark and dry area.
A person with good binoculars should be able to see Jupiter’s banding, at least the central band, and three or four of the Galilean satellites or moons. Whether you use binoculars or a telescope, the moons should appear as bright dots on either side of Jupiter.
“It’s important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics,” Kobelski said. “One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use.”
If you want to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and the bands in more detail, he recommends a four-inch or larger telescope and some filters in the green to the blue range.
NASA says Jupiter will reach opposition on Monday. That happens when an astronomical object rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, placing the object and the sun on opposite sides of Earth.
For Jupiter, that happens every 13 months. The planet appears larger and brighter than any other time of the year. The difference on Monday is that it will coincide with the planet’s closest approach to Earth since 1963.
Jupiter will be about 367 million miles from us, compared to 600 million miles away when it is at its farthest distance.