Science

Jupiter "in opposition" tonight, closest to Earth for the year Wednesday

In the Anchorage area, Jupiter will rise at 11:03 p.m. and peak at 1:55 a.m. before setting at 4:48 a.m.

Resnick suggests using a smartphone app like Sky Guide to track Jupiter's progress across the night sky and pinpoint the best time to take out your binoculars.

Its moons should be visible with binoculars.

There will be other points of light orbiting around the gas giant, and you may recognize some of their names: Europa, Io, and Ganymede to name a few.

Though Jupiter will get high enough in the sky to be seen around Anchorage, the city is in the 28 day period where it doesn't really get dark.

The challenges to see Jupiter are the planet will be too low on the horizon (or below the horizon) and there's too much daylight in most of the state.

USA space agency NASA's Juno spacecraft last week captured a stunning image of Jupiter, complete with an "intensely dark vortex" swirling across the planet's volatile surface. Jupiter is known to have at least 79 moons, though it's possible more may be discovered with improved technology.

The moons line up and look like tiny dots next to the planet. But you will need to keep your binoculars steady.

Later Jovian observations included the planet's signature "Great Red Spot", a hydrogen/helium storm about 30% wider than Earth, yet it's been shrinking for the last few hundred years - and we're not quite sure why. "If you don't have a way to mount binoculars on a tripod, use the roof of your vehicle or pivot them against a corner of a building to keep your glass steady", King writes.

"My advice to people would be to go out and have a look because it's a lovely sight and it's really quite a thing to realize that when you are looking at the moons with a pair of binoculars - when you see them moving from one night to the next - it's worth reflecting on the fact that it was that discovery that cemented our view of the solar system as having the sun at the center", Massey said.

And if you miss it this year, Jupiter will be at its closest to Earth again in 13 months, in July 2020, astronomers say. The spacecraft was launched so scientists could study Jupiter's composition and evolution, and is now orbiting the planet.



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