Jupiter opposition 2023: How to see the gas giant at its biggest and brightest tonight

Final night time, Jupiter, the most important planet in our Photo voltaic System, appeared at its greatest and brightest because it aligned with Earth and the Solar (often known as opposition). However fear for those who missed this: tonight the gasoline big continues to be well-placed for observing – and also you’ve in all probability already seen Jupiter as a vibrant level of sunshine, low within the night sky.

So, how are you going to spot Jupiter within the night time sky? How will you inform it is not a star? And when will it enter opposition once more? Here is all you want to know.

When is Jupiter in opposition?

Jupiter reached opposition within the morning of 3 November 2023 at 5am within the UK (1am in New York Metropolis, 10am on 2 November in Los Angeles). Right now, the Solar, the Earth, and Jupiter can be in a wonderfully straight line, with Earth within the center. That is a lot in the identical approach that Earth is precisely between the Solar and the Moon throughout a full Moon.

Don’t fret for those who missed this – Jupiter continues to be straightforward to cease days after opposition.

If you happen to’ve seemed up on the night time sky not too long ago, you’ve in all probability already noticed Jupiter within the run-up to opposition:

“Jupiter is the most important planet in our Photo voltaic System, 11 instances bigger than Earth. It’s now dominant within the night time sky,” explains veteran astronomer and BBC Sky at Evening presenter, Pete Lawrence.

“If clear, Jupiter presently shines brighter than all different objects round it, save for the Moon when about. Jupiter reaches opposition on 3 November when it’ll seem at its brightest and greatest for 2023,” Lawrence notes.

What’s opposition?

In astronomy, opposition refers back to the alignment of a planet (or the Moon) with the Earth and the Solar. Throughout opposition, these three celestial our bodies are positioned in a wonderfully straight line, with the Earth within the center.

“Opposition describes an object being reverse the Solar within the sky. For some planets this could be a huge deal, the weeks round opposition giving us our greatest views of them. At opposition, a planet can also be seen all night time lengthy,” explains Lawrence.

Which means throughout opposition, Jupiter is absolutely illuminated by the Solar, so it seems significantly vibrant and simply seen within the night time sky. Opposition gives a wonderful alternative to look at, examine and {photograph} the planet’s options, because it’s well-illuminated and simply seen. And, as a result of it’s reverse the Solar, Jupiter will stay above the horizon all night time.

Solely planets past Earth’s orbit will be in opposition. These are Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. As a result of Mercury and Venus are orbiting the Solar inside Earth’s orbit, Earth won’t ever be positioned between Mercury or Venus and the Solar, and due to this fact these two planets can by no means go into opposition.

How can I spot Jupiter within the sky?

Jupiter is comparatively straightforward to identify, even for the newbie. It’s presently one of many brightest objects within the night time sky, and will be seen all night time lengthy.

Jupiter will rise within the constellation Aries. It’s a dim constellation, so could be a little tough to find. First, look in the direction of the Pleiades star cluster, a cute little asterism packed stuffed with child stars within the Taurus constellation (November is definitely the most effective time to view the Pleiades), and search for a crooked line of three stars close by. That is Aries, and also you’ll simply have the ability to establish a vibrant Jupiter loitering under the constellation.

Knowledgeable Pete Lawrence shares his prime ideas for viewing Jupiter:

“Jupiter is fantastic to view with a little bit of optical help. Let’s begin small with binoculars. Right here, steadiness is essential. One trick is to make use of a family broom, inverted so the comb is pointing up, the deal with tip on the bottom. You possibly can regular the binoculars towards the comb, utilizing a fabric or towel over the broom head to maintain your self clear,” Lawrence says.

Nevertheless it’s not simply the planet you’ll have the ability to see with binoculars:

“With a steadier view, focus as precisely as you possibly can. The planet has many moons – 95 on the final rely. Nonetheless, solely 4 are giant and vibrant sufficient to see simply with a small package. Orbiting the planet, their positions relative to Jupiter fluctuate. When separated from Jupiter they need to be seen by steadied binoculars,” he says.

Listed below are some ideas that will help you spot Jupiter in opposition:

  • Time: Search for Jupiter low on the japanese horizon shortly after sundown. If you happen to’re undecided which approach is east, search for the place the Solar set, and bodily flip round so that you’re dealing with the wrong way.
  • Brightness: Jupiter is exceptionally vibrant, presently at magnitude -2.76.
  • Consistency: It would not twinkle like stars, as a result of it would not have some extent supply of sunshine; it seems as a small, regular, and vibrant disc.
  • Movement: Over a number of nights, you possibly can observe Jupiter’s movement relative to the celebrities. Planets transfer towards the background stars, whereas stars preserve fastened positions.
  • Binoculars or telescope: If in case you have them, use binoculars or a telescope to view the 4 giant Galilean moons, which seem as tiny factors of sunshine close to the planet.

If you happen to’re nonetheless struggling to identify Jupiter, there are astronomy apps that you could obtain – all you want to do is level your telephone on the sky, and the app will let you know what you’re taking a look at.

What’s going to Jupiter seem like by a telescope?

If you happen to take a look at Jupiter by a telescope, it might seem squashed, bulging on the equator. That is right down to the quick spin of the planet; it takes lower than 10 hours for it to finish one rotation. It’s the quickest spinning planet within the Photo voltaic System, and subsequently, has the shortest day of all of the planets within the Photo voltaic System.

“With a small telescope, the moons seem clearer, and Jupiter seems as a disc. Chill out and take time to let your eye get used to the view. Ultimately, you’ll see the 2 darkish belts which encircle the planet’s globe parallel to its equator; the north and south equatorial belts (NEB and SEB),” explains Lawrence.

“Discover additionally that the planet’s disc isn’t spherical however seems squashed. It’s because Jupiter is a quickly spinning gasoline planet, someday on Jupiter being lower than 10 hours lengthy!”

“If in case you have a 100mm or bigger telescope and if the timing is correct, you might even see an oval patch embedded throughout the SEB. That is the Nice Pink Spot, a persistent anticyclonic storm in Jupiter’s ambiance which can have been round for not less than 358 years.”

How usually do oppositions happen?

All the planets in our Photo voltaic System go into opposition on a roughly annual foundation. It’s because Earth has a quicker orbit, passing between these planets and the Solar.

“For superior planets (bigger orbits than Earth) the impact of opposition decreases with distance,” says Lawrence.

There’s, nevertheless, one exception to this rule: Mars. Mars reaches opposition each 26 months, as a result of it takes Earth a bit lower than two years to ‘lap’ Mars of their respective orbits. This common sample makes Mars attain opposition about each 26 months.

“Close by Mars reaches opposition each 2.1 years. More often than not it seems small and distant, however for just a few months both aspect of opposition Mars turns into vibrant, and thru a telescope, its dimension will increase noticeably. The following opposition of Mars is in January 2025,” Lawrence provides.

Jupiter goes into opposition each 13 months.

What constellation is Jupiter in?

Jupiter is presently within the dim constellation of Aries the Ram, and is slowly making its approach in the direction of Taurus the Bull.

Jupiter resides throughout the zodiac band of the sky, and it strikes by roughly 1/12 of its orbit yearly, making a single orbit round 12 years.

Meaning it takes round 12 months for Jupiter to journey throughout one of many zodiac constellations and transfer on to the following. Jupiter goes into opposition roughly each 13 months, and the gasoline big will go by all of the zodiac constellations over a interval of 12 years.

Earlier than going into opposition, Jupiter will look as if it’s shifting backwards for a time, and that is referred to as obvious retrograde movement. Previous to the 2023 opposition, Jupiter entered retrograde in September. Here’s what Jupiter has been as much as this 12 months:

  • 4 September 2023: Jupiter entered retrograde and began shifting backwards
  • 1 November 2023: Jupiter reached perigee, the purpose in its orbit nearest the Earth
  • 3 November 2023: Jupiter reaches opposition, the purpose in its orbit reverse the Solar
  • 31 December 2023: Jupiter ends retrograde and begins shifting forwards

How vibrant will Jupiter get?

Jupiter will seem vibrant within the night time sky throughout opposition. In reality, it can seem a lot brighter than Sirius, the brightest star within the sky.

Astronomers use ‘magnitude’ to explain how vibrant objects within the night time sky seem. The decrease the magnitude quantity, the brighter the thing.

For instance, a star with a magnitude of 1 is brighter than a star with a magnitude of 5. It is a logarithmic scale, that means every complete quantity improve represents a lower in brightness by an element of about 2.5. If an object has a minus quantity, then it’s very vibrant and simple to identify with the bare eye.

Again in September when Jupiter entered into retrograde, it was already vibrant at magnitude -2.48. Now as we strategy opposition, and being absolutely illuminated by the Solar, it can attain magnitude -2.76.

For comparability, the brightest star within the night time sky is Sirius, which shines at magnitude -1.4.

When are the planets subsequent in opposition?

  • Mercury: By no means
  • Venus: By no means
  • Mars: 15 January 2025
  • Jupiter: 3 November 2023
  • Saturn: 7 September 2024
  • Uranus: 13 November 2023
  • Neptune: 20 September 2024
  • The Moon: 27 November 2023 (Beaver Moon)

About our Knowledgeable

Pete Lawrence is an skilled astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC’s The Sky at Evening.

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