Jupiter pays its closest visit to Earth for the year on Friday

The Hubble Space Telescope observed Jupiter on April 3, 2017 - just days before Jupiter is in opposition on April 7. NASA

Skywatchers, Friday night is your best chance of the year to get a close look at the biggest planet in our solar system.

That's when Jupiter will make its closest approach to Earth in 2017. The planet will "only" be 416 million miles away, closer than any other time of the year, NASA said.

Jupiter will be visible with the naked eye as it rises in the east at sunset and climbs high through the sky all night, before setting in the west as the sun rises Saturday morning. This event allows astronomers using telescopes in space and on the ground to see more detail in the atmosphere of Jupiter, NASA said.

Using a telescope or binoculars, you'll also be able to spot its four bright moons on both sides of the planet, Astronomy.com said.

According to EarthSky.org, Jupiter will shine more brightly than any star in the evening sky, and is the second-brightest planet, after Venus. However, Venus will only shine for a short while Friday night before sunrise while Jupiter stays out all night long.

The best time to observe the planet is when it's highest in the sky — around midnight local time, AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. The best viewing conditions will be from Southeast through the Plains, AccuWeather said, while pesky clouds are forecast to cover the sky across the Northeast and much of the West Coast and the Rockies.

This annual event is officially known as "opposition," because it's the point at which the planet is located directly opposite the sun in the sky. This means that the sun, Earth and Jupiter line up, with Earth sitting in between the sun and the gas giant.

Jupiter comes to opposition about every 13 months, EarthSky said. Astronomy website Slooh.com will also provide live coverage of the event Friday.

PHOTOS | NASA's Juno probe reaches Jupiter

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment