Cool Sky!

Tonight: Jupiter Will Be Closer To Earth Than Ever In This Lifetime

“Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition, which means this year’s views will be extraordinary,” NASA explains.

A wide field view showcases Jupiter in the upper right quadrant. The planet’s swirling horizontal st...
Webb NIRCam composite image (two filters) of Jupiter system, unlabeled (top) and labeled (bottom). Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt.

On September 26, the sky is treating us to an incredible show that will have even people who aren’t space fanatics all excited. It’s literally a once-in-a-lifetime moment where we can see Jupiter from here on Earth with nothing but our eyeballs and a clear sky. It hasn’t happened in nearly six decades, and it won’t happen again for another 107 years. So here’s what you need to know.

What Is Happening With Jupiter On September 26?

Jupiter will give us a spectacular show, the first in 59 years, thanks to an event called opposition. “When in opposition, a planet is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun, so you could draw a straight line from the sun to Earth to Jupiter, all in alignment,” NPR explains.

Why Is This Jupiter In Opposition So Special?

Every 13 months, Jupiter is in opposition, but this one is particularly exciting since it will be the closest to Earth since the 60s. “Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth rarely coincides with opposition, which means this year’s views will be extraordinary,” NASA explains.

“At its closest approach, Jupiter will be approximately 367 million miles in distance from Earth, about the same distance it was in 1963,” the agency added. “The massive planet is approximately 600 million miles away from Earth at its farthest point.”

"Jupiter is so bright and brilliant that a really nice thing about it is even in a city, in the middle of a bright city, you can see it," says Alphonse Sterling, a NASA astrophysicist at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "So I would say that it's a good thing to take advantage of and to look at no matter where you're at."

How Can We See Jupiter In Opposition?

Viewing Jupiter with the naked eye is possible, especially if you’re in an area where it’s dark. However, having a telescope would make the views even more spectacular. Adam Kobelski, another research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, says having a telescope that’s four inches or larger along with some blue and green filters will allow you to see the features of Jupiter more clearly.

According to NASA, tonight, September 26, is the best time to see Jupiter. However, it’s not the only opportunity. “The views should be great for a few days before and after Sept. 26,” Kobelski said. “So, take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in the sight. Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”

To check the best time to view Jupiter from where you live, check out TimeandDate.