Jupiter to appear bigger, brighter this weekend as it reaches opposition

The largest planet in our solar system will shine in the night sky this weekend, the brightest it will be all year.

“Jupiter makes its closest approach to Earth on April 7, 2017, as it reaches opposition and rises in the eastern sky as the Sun sets,” according to Slooh.

Friday night’s celestial event is called an opposition. Jupiter will be directly opposite of the sun, causing it to appear in the sky all night long.

Jupiter will rise in the east around the same time as sunset and track across the sky throughout the night, eventually setting in the west around sunrise.

“The best time to observe is when it's highest in the sky which is close to midnight local time,“ AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

Jupiter and moons

What Jupiter and its four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, look like as they appear through binoculars or a telescope. (Photo/Twitter user @saloplarus)


No special equipment is needed to see Jupiter as it is one of the five planets visible to the naked eye. However, those with a telescope or binoculars may be in for an extra treat.

“With a simple pair of binoculars, you can spot three or four of Jupiter's largest moons,“ Samuhel said.

Jupiter has 53 named moons, but the four largest moons are the easiest to spot, according to NASA. With a larger telescope, onlookers may be able to see the red cloud bands on Jupiter.

jupiter


The best viewing conditions across the United States will be from Southeast through the Plains.

Clouds will cover the sky across the Northeast and much of the West Coast and the Rockies.

If clouds prevent viewing Jupiter on the night of opposition, stargazers will have plenty of opportunities to view the planet in the coming weeks.

Days after the opposition, Jupiter will rise in tandem with the full moon, making it easy to spot. Photographers will have a chance to catch both the moon and Jupiter in the same frame.

Jupiter will remain visible in the night sky for the next couple of months; however, it will become gradually dimmer and set earlier and earlier in the night.