When people are asked to point at the brightest star in sky, often their fingers gravitate to a bright untwinkling beacon among the stars. Well that’s no star, its Jupiter, the grandest planet of them all!
IT’S JUPITER SEASON!
Jupiter is currently visible in the eastern skies early into the night. If its past 8 pm and you have a chance to look at the skies, just glance east. Jupiter is an unmistakable bright white dot. An outer planet like Jupiter is always brightest when the Earth and the planet are at the closest to each other. This event is called opposition. The opposition of Jupiter is coming up on March 8th, when it will be brightest. Building up to that, it will continue getting brighter and brighter.
If you get a chance to look at Jupiter through a telescope, don’t miss it!
Even with a cheap telescope, it’s easy to see the 4 Galilean moons and the white and red equatorial bands. Fathoming the cosmic scale of distances after seeing Jupiter as a tiny speck is a very humbling experience. In fact, its this stomach churning feeling that we’re all very small beings in a very large universe, that drives people in pursuit of astronomy.
The opposition of Jupiter and Saturn occur close to once a year, but the opposition of Mars happens only once every 2.2 years. 2016 happens to be a year of a very bright opposition of Mars, so that’s another thing to look forward to! That’s coming up in May.
Through a telescope, you can see Jupiter’s red and white bands and the four Galilean moons. Recently I attempted to take a photo of Jupiter. It’s one of my first attempt and I’m very proud! You can take a look at it here.
On your next evening walk, don’t forget to look for Jupiter!