Jupiter’s opposition to come closest to Earth in 59 years

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Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 59 years on Monday, September 26, according to NASA.

Our solar system’s largest planet, the gas giant, will be in opposition, meaning Earth is directly between it and the sun, said Trina L. Ray, deputy science manager for the Europa Clipper mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The space agency initially said Jupiter would make its closest approach to Earth in 70 years, but corrected its statement after discovering the error, a NASA spokesman said.

There will be about 367 million miles (590.6 million kilometers) between Earth and Jupiter, according to NASA. Jupiter is about 600 million miles (965.6 million kilometers) from our home planet at its farthest point, the space agency said.

Jupiter is at opposition every 13 months, the time it takes Earth to orbit the Sun opposite Jupiter, according to EarthSky.

Neither Earth nor Jupiter orbits the sun in a perfect circle, which makes each opposition a slightly different distance, said Ray, who is a research scientist for NASA’s Europa Assessment and Sounding Radar: Ocean to Near-surface, or REASON.

Jupiter will become brighter and larger in the sky, making it a great opportunity to see the event, NASA said.

The gaseous planet will rise at sunset and appear pearly white to the naked eye, said Patrick Hartigan, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston.

You’ll be able to see the planet’s bands with binoculars or a telescope, according to NASA.

Stargazers may also be able to see three or four of Jupiter’s moons, including Europa, Ray said.

“Since I’m working on a spacecraft we’re going to send to the Jupiter system to explore Europa,” he said, “I’m always excited to see Jupiter and even Europa with my own eyes.”

To find out when to look at the sky, use The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s Visible Planets Calculator.

Saturn and Mars will also be visible, so try to see those planets while watching the Jupiter opposition, Hartigan said.

There will be three more full moons this year, according to the Farmer’s Almanac:

  • October 9: Hunter’s moon

Native American tribes have different names for full moons, such as the Cheyenne tribe’s “grass-drying moon” in September, and the Arapaho tribe’s “tree-bursting” full moon in December.

Catch a peak of these upcoming meteor shower events later this year, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide:

  • Southern Taurides: November 5
  • Northern Taurides: November 12

And there will be one more total lunar eclipse and one more partial solar eclipse in 2022, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. The partial solar eclipse on October 25 will be visible in parts of Greenland, Iceland, most of Europe, northeastern Africa, and western and central Asia.

The November 8 total lunar eclipse will be visible in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, South America, and North America between 3:02 a.m. and 8:56 a.m. ET. But for people in eastern North America, the moon will enter during this time.

Use appropriate eclipse glasses to view solar eclipses safely, as sunlight can damage your eyes.