By: April Carson
Jupiter, the solar system's most enormous planet, will come closest to Earth for 59 years on Sept. 26 as it approaches from the west even while the gas giant is directly opposite the sun from Earth, in what is known as opposition.
Jupiter is afflicted by opposition every 13 months, and the planet and Earth make close approaches approximately once a year. The regularity that sees Earth in between the sun and Jupiter rarely coincides with the huge planet's closest approach to our planet, known as perigee. However, on September 26th, opposition will occur, with closest approach on September 25th.
This will be the first time Jupiter has been at perigee since 1963, and it's the closest it will come to Earth until 2026.
While the gas giant is still 400 million miles away, it will appear unusually bright in the night sky and will be visible to the naked eye.
Jupiter will appear especially bright and large in the sky as a result of the penumbral shadow, allowing for an unusual view of its features. For many days around the two events, Jupiter should be positioned in a desirable location for skywatchers with binoculars or a small telescope. Finding a location with higher elevation, dark skies, and dry weather will enhance the planet's visibility even more.
"According to research astrophysicist Adam Kobelski from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, the views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26," So take advantage of good weather on either side of this date and go outside to enjoy the sight. Outside of the moon, it should be one bright object in the night sky."
This is an exciting opportunity for astronomers and stargazers alike. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, and it's always a fascinating sight to see. This close alignment only happens once every 59 years, so make sure to take advantage of it while you can.
Because the solar system's planets orbit the sun in flattened ellipses rather than perfect circles, Earth and Jupiter cross paths at irregular intervals.
Jupiter completes an orbit around the sun every 4,333 days (12 Earth years) on average, whereas Earth takes 365 days to circle the sun.
Jupiter will be about 367 million miles (590 million kilometers) from Earth when NASA's space probe swings by next week. Jupiter is approximately 600 million miles (960 million km) away from Earth at its furthest point. October 1963 marked the last time Jupiter was so close to our planet, and the last time skywatchers could see it so big and bright in the sky.
Some of Jupiter's most amazing qualities will be visible from Earth because of the favorable alignments. Skywatchers will be able to see Jupiter's four largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – with just a backyard telescope.
NASA also plans to take advantage of Jupiter's close flyby by studying the giant planet and its moons with several of its spacecraft.
"With good binoculars, the banding — at least the central band — and three or four of the Galilean satellites should be visible," Kobelski added. "It's critical to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century technology."
The Galilean satellites, consisting of Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, are some of the most visible moons orbiting Jupiter. These natural satellites can be seen as bright dots on either side of Jupiter when looking up at night.
The moon Europa conceals a massive ocean and is now high on the list of Space Agencies to explore for signs of extraterrestrial life. The Europa Clipper will travel to this Jovian moon no sooner than 2024. Europe has also announced its plans to launch the Jupiter Icy Moons spacecraft in April 2023 which will investigate three of Jupiter's Galilean moons.
As well as these natural satellites, there are also two man-made spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter. These are NASA's Juno mission and the ESA's JUICE mission.
Kobelski stated that with a larger, more potent telescope, astronomers ought to be able to detect Jupiter's Great Red Spot- a storm tormenting the planet's atmosphere for centuries.
The Great Red Spot, thought to be the solar system's largest storm, is approximately 10,000 miles (16,000 km) across. Within thestorm, winds gust between 270 mph (430 kph) and 425 mph (685 kph). Juno spacecraft's recent observations of the Great Red Spot indicated that the storm has lengthy depth. Twice as wide as our planet ,the GRS is deep enough to reach from Earth's ocean floor to outer space at the International Space Station.
This is a truly remarkable opportunity to study Jupiter in unprecedented detail, and we are excited to see what secrets the planet will reveal," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
Scientists think that studying Jupiter may help explain how the solar system formed the way it did, and not just backyard astronomers.
"Jupiter holds clues to the origin of our solar system and how it became the way it is today, " said Jim Green, NASA's Planetary Science Division Director in Washington. " Juno will unravel Jupiter's story from the inside out."
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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