The largest planet in our solar system is about to get so close, and so look as bright, to Earth as it is all year long.
Astronomers will be treated with spectacular cosmic visions of the gas giant as Jupiter enters into its annual opposition.
Opposition means that when the Earth revolves around the Sun once every 365 days, the outer planets rotate much more slowly. "These different orbital periods allow us to go between the Sun and Jupiter annually (about every 13 months), making it appear from Earth that Jupiter is opposite the Sun," explains The Weather Network weatherman Erin Wenckstern.
On Wednesday, June 12, the giant planet will be at the height of the opposition, illuminating the night sky in North America. A telescope or binoculars will also help identify the four largest and brightest moons of Jupiter.
"With a good pair of binoculars and a steady hand, you can catch a glimpse of Jupiter's Galilean moons: Ganymede, Io, Europa, and Callisto. Look closely how they will appear as 4 small points near the planet, "says Wenckstern.
On Wednesday, Jupiter will be closer to Earth all year, just 640,862,318 km away.
Although 640 million kms may not qualify as most of Earthling's proximity definitions, the average distance from our planet to the monstrous planet is more than 100 million kms more, at 786,884,800 kms.
In analyzing space for Jupiter, The Weather Network says "a simple pair of eyes and clear skies will do the job," meaning binoculars and telescopes are only needed for advanced observers.
"As the sun sets west, we look at the horizon to the east and watch Jupiter rise through the starry sky at almost a time line just opposite the Sun," concludes The Weather Network. "To the naked eye he will appear as a brilliant star, but will graze along a path from east to west between the background of stars from dusk to dawn … all night!"
Jupiter's next opposition will occur on the nights of July 14 and 15, 2020. At that time, Jupiter will be even closer to us, just 619 million miles away.
If you miss your chance to check out the gaseous giant this week, Jupiter images captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft, currently in orbit around the planet, will be available on its website.