Jupiter Is the Closest It's Been to Earth in 59 Years—You'll Be Able to See the Planet's Magnificent Stripes Tonight

Here's how to spot Jupiter and its tonal bands tonight.

composite image of jupiter from nasa juno mission
Photo: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

If you love stargazing, then you'll want to pull out your binoculars to catch an out-of-this-world sight that's making a grand appearance in the sky tonight. According to CNN, Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, is the closest it's been to Earth in nearly 60 years. The reason? The planet is at opposition, which puts Earth right between the "gas giant" and the sun, said Trina L. Ray, deputy science manager for the Europa Clipper mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Per NASA, only 367 million miles currently separate Earth and Jupiter, which cuts their furthest distance—roughly 600 million miles—almost in half. While this is the closet that astronomers say Jupiter has been to Earth in 59 years, the gas giant is actually at opposition almost every 13 months, which is the amount of time it takes Earth to make its way around the sun, reports EarthSky.

The phenomenon will also change how Jupiter looks: The planet will be bigger and brighter than usual. NASA experts noted that the planet will begin to rise around sunset—and that stargazers will likely be able to see it without a telescope. Patrick Hartigan, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston, said that Jupiter will look like a pearly white object to the naked eye. If you do take out your telescope, you should be able to see Jupiter's striped bands. Ray added that stargazers might also spot three or four of Jupiter's moons—including Europa.

Use The Old Farmer's Almanac's visible planets calculator to find out the exact time Jupiter will pop up in the sky in your region. Another bonus? Time it right, and you'll also be able to see Saturn and Mars out there, too.

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