MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The fifth planet from the Sun has been prominent in the nights sky for the last two months. Viewing opportunities of Jupiter will become optimal this week as the planet approaches opposition on November 3rd, 2023.
JUPITER: THE KING OF THE PLANETS
Jupiter, a gas giant planet located 484 million miles from Earth, is the largest planet in our solar system. It is 11 times wider than the Earth and is the most dominant gravitational object in our solar system outside of the Sun. With its iconic banding features and its giant storm dubbed the Great Red Spot, Jupiter is the fourth brightest object in the sky behind the Sun, the Moon, and the planet Venus.
A planet is said to be in opposition when it reaches a point in its orbit when it is directly in line with the Earth and the Sun. This means that the planet rises in the eastern sky around the time the sun sets in the west. A Jovian year is equivalent to about 12 Earth years. This means that Jupiter reaches opposition about once every 13 months.
CHECK IT OUT IN THE NIGHT SKY
Jupiter in opposition provides an excellent opportunity for stargazers and amateur astronomers to view the giant planet. With a decent pair of binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to make out the planet’s iconic stripes. With a stronger telescope, you may also see four bright objects surrounding Jupiter. These are the Galilean Satellites, the four largest moons of Jupiter. They are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.