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Brightest Jupiter in 70 Years Appears in the East Two Hours After Sundown Thanks to Near-Perfect “Opposition”


Jupiter with its 2 tiny moons Amalthea and Adrastea – NASA/ESA Image processing by Ricardo Hueso and Judy Schmidt

Stargazing typically demands that people pry themselves out of bed at 4:30 AM, as the conditions tend to be better.

But in this period anyone can witness a once in 70-year phenomenon merely two hours after sunset.

Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, is now the brightest light in the eastern night sky by a country mile. According to the ever-stalwart Jamie Carter over at Forbes, Ole’ Jove hasn’t been this bright in 70 years.

The reason for this is that Jupiter is in perfect opposition to Earth in this period. Jupiter’s revolution around the Sun is much longer, but right now there is a perfect line between the Earth, the Sun, and Jupiter.

“Opposition makes a huge difference when viewing any planet from Earth,” explains Carter.

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The entire disc of the planet is illuminated in this way, and as well as being visible for longer thanks to early rising and late setting times, the basic fact that the two bodies are the closest that they’ll be to each other makes it the brightest moment.

Perfect opposition will occur on the 26th of September, but even now it’s possible to see 99.7% of its light disk.

Get a pair of good binoculars at least, and you’ll be able to spot some of the larger Jovian moons, Ganymede, Io, Callisto, and Europa.

Just above Jupiter around 10:30 at night, there will be four bright stars known as the “Great Square of Pegasus,” sitting within that constellation. Far to the right will be Saturn.

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