Jupiter will look bigger and brighter than normal on Monday night as it rises opposite of the sun and reaches its closest point to Earth in decades. It will be so close that the planet's banding and several of its moons should be visible, NASA said.
The gas giant will become visible when it reaches opposition, meaning it rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, a move that happens every 13 months. Tonight will also mark the closest that Jupiter has been to Earth since 1963 – which, according to NASA, is a unique happening that will make it an extra special viewing.
At its closest point, the planet will be about 367 million miles from Earth, about 200 million miles closer than when it's at its farthest point.
"Jupiter's closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition," NASA said, "which means this year's views will be extraordinary."
Those spectacular views are expected to be vivid and detailed, scientists said.
"With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible," NASA research astrophysicist Adam Kobelski said.
There are 53 named moons belonging to the planet, though scientists believe that 79 have been detected. The four largest of the moons are known as the Galilean satellites, named after Galileo Galilei, who first observed them.
"It's important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics," Kobelski said. "One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use."
The best spots to see Jupiter will be from high elevations where it is dark and dry, Kobelski said, and it should visible for the next few days.
"Take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in the sight," he said. "Outside of the moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky."
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