If You Want To See Jupiter, Tonight's Your Best Bet All Year

If You Want To See Jupiter, Tonight's Your Best Bet All Year”

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have captured a stunning new image of Jupiter, showing several distinct bands in its roiling atmosphere, the famous Great Red Spot, and the lesser known "Red Spot Junior" - located further down south.

According to, Jupiter will shine more brightly than any star in the evening sky, and is the second-brightest planet, after Venus.

The bright, gaseous planet (-2.5 magnitude) rises at sunset and sets with the following morning's sunrise, explained Geoff Chester, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

And one won't need any special equipment to enjoy the visual feast, as binoculars would allow the massive planet along with its four largest moons - Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io - to be seen in their natural glory.

The most recognisable feature on Jupiter is the huge anticyclonic storm, called the Great Red Spot - this storm is large enough to engulf a whole Earth-sized planet at once. This means that the sun, Earth, and Jupiter line up, with Earth sitting between the sun and the gas giant.

Jupiter, on approach to Opposition 2017, from the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3.

Viewing Jupiter when the planet is at its closest to us is an awesome experience, but whether or not we'll see it depends on the sky conditions in your area. Friday's opposition is prime time for seeing our solar system's biggest world sparkling in the night sky.

At a distance of 415 million miles (668 million kilometres), Jupiter is now closer to the Earth than at any other time during the year. NASA says the spot's winds can peak at 400 miles per hour (644 kph).

Jupiter comes into opposition with Earth every 13 months, so each year it seems to come a month later. The reason for this is still unknown. And with a telescope, you should be able to see a few of the individual cloud belts on Jupiter, and perhaps even the Great Red Spot. So Hubble will continue to observe Jupiter in the hope that scientists will solve this stormy riddle.

Last June, the Hubble telescope imaging spectrograph captured the extraordinarily vivid fireworks of aurora dancing, as high-energy particles pierced the planet's atmosphere near its magnetic poles. Data gathered by Hubble compliments other NASA missions that are also looking at the Jovian system. In 2018, it will begin viewing Saturn. Image credit: NASA / ESA / A. Simon, Goddard Space Flight Center.

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