When to watch Jupiter as it makes its closest approach to Earth since 1963

When to watch Jupiter as it makes its closest approach to Earth since 1963

Jupiter will appear bigger and brighter in the sky on Monday, Sept. 26. (NASA)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

PASADENA, Calif. — Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 59 years on Monday, according to NASA.

The largest planet in our solar system, the gas giant will be at 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 originally said Jupiter would be making its closest approach to Earth in 70 years, but corrected its statement after discovering the error, a NASA spokesperson said.

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

Jupiter is at opposition about every 13 months, the length of time the Earth takes to orbit the Sun in relation to Jupiter, according to EarthSky.

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

How to watch

Jupiter will appear brighter and bigger in the sky, making the event a great opportunity to catch a glimpse, NASA said.

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

With a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you will be able to see the planet’s bands, according to NASA.

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

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

For a precise time of when to look in the sky, use The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s visible planets calculator.

Saturn and Mars will also be visible, so try and spot those planets while viewing Jupiter’s opposition, Hartigan said.

Remaining events in 2022

Three more full moons will occur this year, according to the Farmer’s Almanac:

  • October 9: Hunter’s moon
  • November 8: Beaver moon
  • December 7: Cold moon

Native American tribes have different names for the full moons, such as the Cheyenne tribe’s “drying grass moon” for the one happening in September, and the Arapaho tribe’s “popping trees” for the full moon occurring in December.

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

  • Draconids: October 8-9
  • Orionids: October 20-21
  • South Taurids: November 5
  • North Taurids: November 12
  • Leonids: November 17-18
  • Geminids: December 13-14
  • Ursids: December 22-23

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

The total lunar eclipse on Nov. 8 can be seen in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, South America and North America between 3:02 and 8:56 a.m. ET. But for people in Eastern North America, the moon will be setting during that time.

Wear proper eclipse glasses to view solar eclipses safely as the sun’s light can damage the eyes.

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