Here’s how to spot Jupiter’s closest encounter with Earth in 70 years

Jupiter in space

Jupiter approaches an “opposition” with Earth on September 26 (Image: Getty Images)

Stargazers get their money’s worth Jupiter is approaching Earth as close as it has been in decades.

While Venus is usually the brightest planet in the sky, next month it will be overshadowed by the largest planet in our solar system.

In fact, you may have already spotted Jupiter appearing as a bright star in the east in the evening.

In the last few days, Jupiter has become increasingly visible just after sunset.

This is because the planet is approaching “opposition” with Earth 09/26.

This is the point where the orbits of Earth and Jupiter will be at their closest in 70 years.


In the coming days, Jupiter will become increasingly visible in the east shortly after sunset (Image:

But how to recognize Jupiter in this time? Here’s what you need to know.

How can I spot Jupiter in the sky?

During opposition, Jupiter appears largest and brightest and stays above the horizon for most of the night – so keep your eyes peeled from sunset.

Corresponding Sunset Times, on Monday 26th September, the sun sets at around 6.50pm in the UK.

The Met Office says the weather forecast for the day reads: “Rain will soon clear southern parts, then most areas will see a mix of sunny spells and blustery showers. Chills in brisk north-west winds.’ So be sure to dress warmly and have an umbrella handy while gazing at the stars.

What is an opposition?

All the planets in the solar system orbit the sun. At certain points during these orbits, Earth is directly between the Sun and another planet. This is the moment when this planet is called “in opposition”.

For example, when Jupiter is in opposition, the Earth is between the Sun and Jupiter. So since Jupiter is on the “opposite” side of the sky to the sun, Jupiter appears in the east when the sun sets in the west.

For stargazers and astrophotographers, it’s an ideal time to view and photograph the gas giant.

After Nasa’s James Webb Telescope has sent us some stunning close-ups of Jupiter, it would be great to try and get a glimpse of the planet from Earth.

An “opposition” is considered the best time to see and photograph a planet, since the planet is directly across from the Sun in the sky.

Because planets don’t follow perfectly circular orbits, the distance between our two planets can vary from opposition to opposition.

An opposition with Jupiter occurs roughly every 13 months, but this is likely the closest we’ll have to the gas giant in decades. So it may well be a one-off event.

MORE : NASA’s James Webb Telescope captures Jupiter in a new light

MORE : Scientists solve reason Jupiter has no rings

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Justin Scacco

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