Tonight, Monday 26 September 2022, marks the beginning of a rare astronomical event stargazers and space enthusiasts definitely wouldn’t want to miss: Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 59 years! As it rises in the east at dusk, the largest planet in the solar system will appear particularly gigantic and dazzling thanks to its simultaneous opposition.
This means it will be prominently visible throughout the night sky for everyone. Whether you’re strapped with a space-tech level telescope or a modest set of binoculars, there’s a high chance you’ll be able to get some of the most amazing views of the stripes encompassing the surface of this enormous planet and several of its larger moons after it reaches opposition, according to NASA.
During opposition, Jupiter, the sun, and Earth will be aligned in such a way that both planets will be on the same side of the star, with Earth sitting between these two humungous bodies. This will cause Jupiter to appear larger and brighter than at any other time of the year.
While opposition is not an uncommon cosmic occurrence (Jupiter’s opposition happens every 13 months), this year’s event is extra special because Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth since 1963.
Space experts from NASA explain that Jupiter is usually 600 million miles from Earth as its farthest point. Tonight, Jupiter will instead be merely 367 million miles away from us while appearing larger and brighter than usual. An extraordinary opportunity for all eyes to be on the sky.
Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama says Jupiter’s “banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible.”
Kobelski suggests that the ideal viewing location will be in a dark, dry area away from light pollution at a high elevation. Perhaps loadshedding out-of-this-world tonight won’t be as big a pain in the neck as it tends to be every other night.
“The views should be great for a few days before and after 26 September,” adds Kobelski. “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.”
Share your pictures of tonight’s display with us by:
- tagging us on Instagram (@capetownetc);
- sending your photos to our Facebook page (@CapeTownEtc);
- or by emailing them to [email protected].