The planet Jupiter is closer to Earth tonight than at any time since 1951, making the planet appear larger and easier to see.
An added benefit is that Jupiter is in opposition tonight. This means that Jupiter and the Sun are on opposite sides of Earth. It makes it more visible. This happens every 13 months, but due to the smaller distance the effect is now magnified.
Photos of people who have seen the planet have already appeared on social networks in recent days:
The planet will be seen to the east and is “brighter than the brightest star we can see except for the sun”, said astronomer Annelotte Derkink of the University of Amsterdam in the NOS Radio 1 News. She describes the chances of seeing the planet as beautiful as “very small”. Jupiter will not be so close to Earth again for 107 years.
“We know exactly how the planets spin,” Derkink says. “As a result, we can also accurately predict that it won’t happen again until 2129.”
The gas giant can be seen with the naked eye tonight. Those with binoculars can even see some of Jupiter’s 79 moons or the planet’s cloud bands.
Between these bands is a large red spot, where a gigantic storm is unfolding. Researchers from the Japanese space agency JAXA announced last week that they have a huge heat wave on Jupiter discovered. This heat wave is related to Jupiter’s magnetic field, Derkink explains.
When particles collide with this magnetic field, it creates heat. The temperature on Jupiter often rises to 400 degrees Celsius. Researchers have found that the current heat wave is causing temperatures of up to 700 degrees Celsius in an area ten times larger than Earth.
“There was a storm there for 300 years, so these temperatures spread very quickly. Probably because of an additional solar wind, which also made the collision more violent,” says astronomer Derkink.
The heat wave over the gas giant cannot be seen with simple binoculars, but the bands and larger moons probably can. If you don’t want to miss the chance to see the planet well, you should look east with binoculars after sunset. It is best to use a tripod to see the details.
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