So close you can count its moons

Written on the stars Jupiter at its closest point to Earth on Tuesday and all its moons can be spotted with binoculars

Written on the stars Jupiter at its closest point to Earth on Tuesday and all its moons can be spotted with binoculars

Jupiter is closer to Earth than it will be at any time this year, because the planet is at opposition; meaning the Earth is right between the Sun and Jupiter. Most significantly for space enthusiasts, opposition marks the year's most optimal Jupiter viewing conditions, enabling binocular-equipped watchers to easily spot the planet and perhaps even a few of its 79 moons. The planet will rise in the east and track across the southern sky as the night progresses before setting in the west.

For space lovers around the world, the month of June is set to be stellar: Jupiter will be clearly visible, and those wanting to catch a glimpse of its moons will only need a pair of binoculars.

You can expect to see Jupiter and four of its moons-Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede-at dusk in the northeast, where it will stay until the sun rises tomorrow morning. If you own a telescope, you may also be able to make out individual cloud bands and Jupiter's characteristic Great Red Spot. Although the precise moment of opposition will take place at 6 p.m.

The challenges to see Jupiter are the planet will be too low on the horizon (or below the horizon) and there's too much daylight in most of the state. Planets can be spotted because they don't twinkle like stars, they glow. "Even when it's low down, it will look pretty steady, and that will make it stand out".

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"My advice to people would be to go out and have a look because it's a handsome sight and it's really quite a thing to realize that when you are looking at the moons with a pair of binoculars - when you see them moving from one night to the next - it's worth reflecting on the fact that it was that discovery that cemented our view of the solar system as having the sun at the center", Massey said. The sky will be dark enough.

An image taken of Jupiter by NASA's Juno as the spacecraft passed the gas planet in February.

Between June 14 and 19, Jupiter will be at the center of another celestial event.

The moons line up and look like tiny dots next to the planet. During this period, the moon will form a slightly shifting lineup with Jupiter and Saturn, changing in tandem with its orbit around Earth.

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