September 26, 2022

Jupiter to be closest, brightest Monday night

The Kirkwood Observatory, built in 1901, will have an open house on Wednesday during which visitors can observe Jupiter near its closest point to Earth in 59 years.  - Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

The Kirkwood Observatory, built in 1901, will have an open house on Wednesday during which visitors can observe Jupiter near its closest point to Earth in 59 years.

Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

Jupiter will be closer to Earth Monday evening than at any point in the next 107 years.

It will be only 367 million miles away – a daunting figure, but almost half the distance of its farthest point. 

Sept. 26 is also Jupiter’s opposition, when a celestial body is on the exact opposite side of Earth from the sun. 

The opposition can make Jupiter appear brighter than normal, but it’s rare for it to coincide with such a close approach. Additionally, with a new moon Monday night, skies will be darker than usual, meaning even clearer views.

Brooke Kimsey-Miller, outreach coordinator for the astronomy department, recommended that people stop by the Kirkwood Observatory open house Wednesday night. It may not be opposition then, but IU’s high-powered telescope should offer exceptional views of the unusually close planet.

“Because it is such a large telescope, it almost looks like a sticker,” Kimsey-Miller said. “As if someone just put a sticker on the end of a telescope. That’s how crisp and clear it is.”

The planet hasn’t been this close for 59 years.

NASA said observers will be able to see the planet’s bands and three or four of its moons with only binoculars.

Otherwise, Jupiter will appear as a bright, pale circle to the naked eye.

“Any time you get to view Jupiter is pretty exciting,” Kimsey-Miller said.

Jupiter will begin to rise over Indiana at sunset, 7:36 p.m., and according to calculations by the Farmer’s Almanac, will peak at 1:42 a.m.

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