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Jupiter as seen through NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
Photograph: Flickr / NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

Jupiter is the closest it has been to Earth in 59 years

Expect a once-in-a-lifetime intergalactic sight

Written by
Maya Skidmore

Stargazers, it’s time to look up. For a week following Monday, September 26,  Jupiter, king of the planets and all-round brilliantly big lad, will be coming the closest it has come to Earth in 59 years. Gasp! 

The gas giant has a 12-year orbit around Earth, with it (much like our humble blue planet) not orbiting the sun in a perfect circle, meaning that most years, we miss each other. This year however (for the first time since 1963) Jupiter will come within a whopping 591 million kilometres of Earth, a fact that will mean that it will be suspended in our skies in unusually big and bright form that will be visible to the naked eye – along with four of its 75 moons. 

If you have a telescope, you will be able to see our solar system’s largest planet in all its glory, including getting a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse at Jupiter’s famous Big Red Dot and ringed bands. Even if you don’t have a telescope handy, a common pair of binoculars will also stand you in good stead on this intergalactic mission. 

For all those just using their eyes, it is recommended that you head outdoors straight after sunset to a dark and elevated area, where Jupiter will appear as a brilliant star, lying low on the horizon in the east, where you'll be able to pick up four tiny starry dots around it – the famous Galilean moons. If your view is obstructed upon rising, you will still be able to catch it lighting up our skies throughout the night.

The best day to see this planetary phenomenon is Monday, September 26, but if you miss it, fret not – Jupiter will keep hanging out above Earth for the next month, with its signature rings visible to anyone with a good quality telescope on hand. 

According to astronomers, Jupiter will not be making a similar appearance in our skies until October 7, 2129, so, we suggest taking the time tonight to look up. 

Don’t know where to go to get the most out of this starry action? Head to one of these best stargazing spots in Sydney.

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