Jupiter, the faraway gas giant, fascinates us. It may be millions of miles away from us, but we can still see it in the night sky. How incredible is that? Here’s what you need to do to observe Jupiter from your backyard tonight.
1. The best time to spot Jupiter is during opposition.
Opposition happens every year on June 10. This is when Jupiter is lined up with the Sun and the Earth, allowing us to see it in all its glory in the best light. When Jupiter reaches opposition, its Galilean moons are also quite a sight to see. While the planet is visible for most of the year, you’ll see it best in the summer months. It can sometimes look like an extremely large and bright star, but if it moves around significantly over the course of a few days, you’ll know you’re not looking at a star.
2. Break out the telescope (especially during summer).
While planets like Venus are not too special to look at in a telescope, Jupiter can be incredible when its moons are placed just right. Sometimes you’ll only be able to see three of the large moons, and other times you’ll see four. Regardless, it’s amazing to be able to see another planet’s companions.
3. Use a stargazing app.
If you’re having trouble seeing Jupiter, you might have to use technology to assist you. The planet is bright enough during some months that you should be able to spot it just after dusk or in the early morning hours, but if not, you’ll need to find it using a stargazing app. Planets are typically shown front and center on most apps, but if all else fails you can utilize the search feature.