December 2, 2023

Jupiter was the Closet to Earth for the First Time in 59 Years

On the night of September 26th, 2022, Jupiter reached opposition and this year’s edition of the celestial event was a particularly special one. Now, a planet’s opposition occurs when it appears the opposite of the sun from the human perspective of Earth.

So on the night of September 26th, 2022, the giant gas planet rose in the East as the sun set in the West. But to rephrase that and better explain it, it means that the Earth is passing right in between Jupiter and the sun.

Jupiter’s opposition occurs every 13 months, so it is not a rare occurrence whatsoever. However, this year’s opposition happened to coincide with the gas planet’s perihelion. In other words, it is the point in its orbit at where it is the closest to the sun. So that meant that Jupiter was just 367 million miles away from the planet Earth, which is the closest the giant gas planet has been to the Earth since the year 1963, according to NASA. Now that of course may seem like a far distance, but putting into consideration that Jupiter can be up to 600 million miles away from planet Earth, so on that night, Jupiter was considerably close to Earth.

On the night of September 26th, 2022, in order for you to be able to see Jupiter at the time, you just had to go outside anytime from sunset to sunrise, and it should have appeared somewhere in the night sky. With the naked eye, you could have found it by looking for the second brightest thing in the sky that is not the moon, so it shouldn’t be hard to spot at all.

As for getting a good look at Jupiter, you were able to see the planet with the naked eye, but it was best to use binoculars, or even a telescope if you own one. With both of these items you were able to see more details of the planet, like the red-and-white stripes, the Great Red Spot that Jupiter is known best for, and the planet’s largest moons.

“With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible”- Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, also added, “it’s important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th-century optics, One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use”.

“Jupiter was very large and bright. Apparently, there was small reddish star appended to its side. This is called an alliance” – Gan De