Separately, these two cases are not very rare. Jupiter reaches opposition every 13 months, making the gas giant bigger and brighter than at any other time of the year. It also makes its closest approach to Earth, appearing larger every 12 years or so, the same time it takes the planet to orbit the sun. The coincidence of the two events is a game of physics and won’t happen again until 2139.
“That’s one of the fun things about living on a moving planet,” said NASA astronomer Michelle Taller. “Everything is lining up to make Jupiter the biggest you’ll see in the sky in 59 years.”
Amateur astronomers will probably notice the differences the most, Thaller said. Using binoculars or a telescope, people will be able to observe the finer details of Jupiter, including its bands and three or four of its Galilean moons, according to NASA. Skygazers should find high altitude, dark skies and dry air for the best visibility.
After spending all night snapping nearly 600,000 photos of it, I’m happy to show you the sharpest shot of Jupiter yet. This was taken with an 11 inch telescope and the camera I usually use for deep sky work. pic.twitter.com/puCv57wGzn
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) September 17, 2022
Telescopes in space will also be able to capture a better view of the gas giant in the next few months, Taller said. The recently launched James Webb Space Telescope has already captured an exceptional image of the planet in remarkable detail. The image, created from several composites, shows the auroras over Jupiter’s north and south poles. The famous Great Red Spot appears white as a large rotating storm and clouds that can engulf the Earth reflect a lot of sunlight.
Jupiter has long fascinated astronomers gives clues To the early history of the earth. Jupiter was probably the first planet in our solar system, formed from gas and dust left over from the formation of the sun about 4.6 billion years ago. During this time, a large, heavy planet passed through the inner solar system, destroying other new planets in its path. The remains of destroyed nascent planets were some of the building materials for Venus, Earth, Mars and Mercury.
Taller said Jupiter may also be responsible for much of the water on our planet. As Jupiter passed through the inner solar system, it could have delivered some of the water that fills our oceans today. Much of Earth’s surface water “was brought in by Jupiter, dragging with it a lot of icy material from the outer solar system,” Taller said.
For galactic explorers, Jupiter’s moon Europa is also one of the most likely places in our solar system to find life beyond Earth. An icy moon could hold the three substances necessary for life: water, energy, and chemistry.
Admire one of the biggest physical reasons we’re here as Jupiter makes a rare approach and opposition. “There are so many wonderful things about Jupiter,” Taller said. “It will look especially big and bright over the next few weeks. It will be just beautiful.”
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