CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – Sept. 26 will be a night to behold for avid stargazers.
According to a statement from NASA, on Monday night, Jupiter will reach opposition, meaning it and the Sun will be on opposite sides of Earth, making the planet appear larger and brighter than any other time of the year. Jupiter’s opposition will also be coinciding with its closest approach to Earth since 1963—approximately 367 million miles.
As the sun sets, Jupiter will rise, so it will become visible around sunset (7:12 p.m. in Clarksburg) and reach peak viewing time at 1:18 a.m. in north central West Virginia, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s visible planets calculator.
“With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible,” said Adam Kobelski, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “It’s important to remember that Galileo observed these moons with 17th century optics. One of the key needs will be a stable mount for whatever system you use.”
Kobelski recommended that eager viewers find a location high in elevation that is in a dark and dry area, and they should also bring “a larger telescope to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and bands in more detail; a 4 inch-or-larger telescope and some filters in the green to blue range would enhance the visibility of these features.”
“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.”
Jupiter’s four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto should also appear as bright dots on either side of Jupiter during opposition.