Stargazers: Jupiter makes closest approach to Earth in 59 years next week

On Monday, Sept. 26, Jupiter will appear larger and brighter than at any other time of the year for two exciting reasons.

In a rare coincidence, our solar system’s largest planet will reach opposition and be only 367 million miles from Earth. The planet has not been that close since 1963, according to NASA. In contrast, Jupiter is approximately 600 million miles at its farthest point from Earth.

Opposition is when any astronomical object rises in the east as the sun sets in the west. The object, in this case Jupiter, and the Sun will be on opposite sides of Earth. Jupiter’s opposition happens every 13 months, but its timing will help make the planet look unusually bright, according to Space.com.

Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said that some of Jupiter’s moons could be visible with a good set of binoculars.

“With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible.”

Kobelski recommends a four-inch-or-larger telescope to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and to be able to see the bands in more detail.

As with all stargazing, ideal viewing locations for the event are away from brightly lit areas.