December 6, 2022

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Jupiter is rarely so clear and distinct in the October night sky

Jupiter is rarely so clear and distinct in the October night sky

Those who like to look at the stars have probably already seen them. In October and a little later, we have a rare chance to see Jupiter so large and clear in the evening and night sky. It is clearly visible with evenly clear and bright light.

The gas giant Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun. It is Earth’s neighbor with Mars in between and is the largest planet in our solar system.

Stephanie Werner, Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oslo, explains why Jupiter is so much bigger today.

Take a look tonight

At the moment, Jupiter and Earth are as close as possible, so Jupiter now appears brighter in the sky compared to the next several years. The planets move around the sun in ovals at different speeds, sometimes on the “same side of the sun,” which is called an opposition. Jupiter collides approximately every 13 months.

– Both the Earth and Jupiter move in elliptical orbits, the Earth passes between Jupiter and the Sun in different parts of the orbit, and the same is true for Jupiter. Therefore, it is very rare for both Earth and Jupiter to be opposite each other at the same time and are closer to each other, and the shorter the distance, the brighter the object in the sky, Werner explains.

For a number of years, she conducted research in the field of planetary science. It is also central to the Planned Center for Planetary Habitability, which recently received Research Council support as a Center for Excellence in Research

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Now in October and beyond, Jupiter shines brightly and clearly in the evening and in the night sky. This image was taken on October 9 from Gamle Oslo with a slightly faint hand-held camera, Jupiter can be seen clearly above the moon and slightly to the left of it. Despite the light pollution from the big city, the planet is clearly visible. Photo: Gunn Kristin Tjoflot / UiO

Long until the next opportunity

It may be a long time until Jupiter’s orbit is very close to Earth’s orbit next time. We now have a rare opportunity to see planet Earth on this scale.

In addition to the planet itself, it is possible to see its largest moons, for example, using binoculars or a telescope. Jupiter has 79 known moons. Galileo Galilei discovered four of the largest of the moons, called Galilean moons, in January 1610.

The four large moons of Jupiter took their names from Greek mythology and were named after the lovers and mistresses of Zeus – they are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Other facts about the gas giant



In addition to the moons, Jupiter also has a ring, which was discovered in 1979 by NASA’s Voyager 1 and consists of dust expelled from meteor collisions on Jupiter’s inner moons. The ring can be seen in the image captured by the James Webb Telescope at the top of the article.

Jupiter is also famous for the characteristic red spots in its atmosphere, which Werner explains as follows:

– This is a storm system that has lasted for several hundred years and is located at the twenty-second latitude of the planet. This red storm is big enough to swallow our Earth twice, and that says something about the size of Jupiter.

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– In April 2023, the European Space Agency will be launched Jupiter Explorer Ice Moon (juice) to observe some of the largest moons of Jupiter, and to explore the internal structure of the moons and the possibility of habitation in them. She says it will be exciting.

In October and the coming months, this exciting planet will be very close to Earth and shine brightly in the night sky. Maybe you’re going on a trip abroad and looking for the planet tonight if the weather is clear?

Check out the other luminous objects you can see in October here: https://www.space.com/33619-visible-planets-guide.html

The article was first published in Titan.uio.no



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