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Jupiter is about to have its closest encounter with Earth in decades

Posting time:2022-12-06 00:51:50

Jupiter is about to have its closest encounter with Earth in decades

If you have a habit of looking at the sky after dark then you may have noticed a bright star in the east on a recent evening. It wasn't actually a star or Venus, but Jupiter -- the largest planet in the universe, which brightened itself as it got closer to us than at any time in the past seven decades. The giant gas giant will reach opposition on September 26, when the planet faces the sun in the sky. That's why Jupiter is more and more visible in the east shortly after the sun sets, and opposite it in the west shortly after the sun sets. In other words, the point at which we were in orbit when we were about to pass Jupiter, or the point at which we were closest to Jupiter relative to where Jupiter was in its orbit. Now, since the orbits are not perfectly circular, the distance between our two planets changes due to the opposition (with Jupiter, which happens about every 13 months). As it happens, this will be the closest our worlds have come to each other in at least 70 years. So this could be a lifetime opportunity to get a good view of Jupiter. Jupiter is by far the brightest object in the night sky other than the moon. It's easy to spot. Just go outside a few hours after sunset, look at the horizon due east, and start scanning upwards for the brightest object that doesn't appear to twinkle like the other stars. It might also be a great opportunity to look at it with whatever level of telescope or binoculars we have on hand. The official opposition moment is September 26, when Jupiter will technically be closest and brightest, but probably won't change significantly, especially with the naked eye. But what will happen that night is that the planet will rise very close to sunset and set very close to sunrise.

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