Jupiter will appear in the sky tonight, closest to Earth in 59 years

Jupiter reaches closest proximity to Earth in 59 years tonight! Expect clear views via telescope, binoculars, or the naked eye after sunset.

Jupiter is set to make a grand appearance in the night sky today (September 26), as it makes its closest pass to Earth in nearly 60 years. As the solar system’s biggest planet, it will be especially visible and bright due to its rare closeness clashing with another event called “opposition”.

This is when a celestial object rises in the east as the Sun sets in the west. Opposition reportedly happens every 13 months, and will place Jupiter and the Sun on opposite sites of our Earth.

Credit: NASA / ESA / A. Simon

Stargazers and space-lovers better not miss this one, as NASA declares Jupiter won’t comes this close to us again till the year 2129. According to Adelaide Planetarium astronomy lecturer, Paul Curnow, those with telescopes will have clear views of “Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands”.

As an alternative, binoculars should “also show you a great view”. Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist for NASA, adds: “With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible” .

Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

He continues, “It’s important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics. One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use”. However, if you’ve got neither, Paul Curnow advises you to “head outside just after sunset – a dark area with high elevation is best – and you’ll be able to see it with your naked eyes”.

You’ll need to look out for “what appears to be a bright star after sunset, low on the horizon, rising in the east. Sure it’ll appear as a small white dot, but you should be able to pick up what appears to be four tiny stars near Jupiter, but they’re actually the Galilean moons”.

So how close will Jupiter be to Earth, exactly? According to NASA, it will 367 million miles away from us. When it’s at its furthest, it’s 600 million miles away. Curnow says, “this sounds a lot, but it’s quite close”. He concludes, “get your telescopes out, because Jupiter won’t be this close again until October 7, 2129”.