Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth since 1963 on Monday evening, putting skywatchers in for a treat.
The giant planet, which will be 367 million miles away at its closest point, will face us next week. Simply said, Jupiter will rise in the east as the sun sets in the west, putting Jupiter and the sun on opposing sides of the Earth.
At its furthest point, the massive planet is nearly 600 million miles distant from Earth. Although Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, this one is special.
That’s because Earth and Jupiter do not orbit the Sun in perfect circles – meaning they pass each other at different distances throughout the year. Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth hardly ever coincides with opposition, which means this year’s views will be ‘extraordinary,’ according to NASA.
Although Jupiter is one of the few planets visible with the naked eye, NASA suggests using a telescope.
‘The banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible with decent binoculars,’ said Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in a statement.
The U.S. space agency notes that Jupiter has no fewer than 53 named moons, out of 79 that are believed to have been detected in total, including the four largest ones: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter for six years – providing scientists with images and data of the gigantic planet’s atmosphere, structures and magnetic field since then.