It’s time to get excited, astronomy fans, because this month Jupiter will get so close to Earth its largest moons will be visible with binoculars.
If you happen to have any friends who have shelled out hundreds of pounds for a fancy telescope, now’s the time to laugh and call them fools for wasting their money.
Make the most of it, because the rest of the time they will almost definitely have the upper hand when it comes to observing the night sky.
On June 10, the largest planet in our solar system – that’s Jupiter – will be clearly visible all night from Earth as NASA explain the gas giant is at its ‘biggest and brightest this month’.
It will rise at dusk and remain observable all night, and you won’t need any magnifying apparatus at all to see the planet itself as its stripes and swirls will be visible to the naked eye. Though, admittedly a pair of binoculars or a telescope will allow you to see it in more detail, so maybe keep that friend with the telescope close, after all.
The devices will help observers see Jupiter’s four largest moons, and possibly even a ‘glimpse’ of part of the banded clouds which surround the planet.
This image of Jupiter was taken when the planet was at a distance of 670 million kilometres from Earth. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes. Credit: NASA pic.twitter.com/ezmfDEqR7J
— Astronomy blog (@astronomyblog1) June 5, 2019
Jupiter greatly out-does Earth on the moon front, as scientists believe the planet has a combined 79 moons. 53 have been named and 26 are awaiting official names, but those visible to us will be Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
The planet will appear when it reaches opposition; the annual occurrence when Jupiter, Earth and the Sun are arranged in a straight line.
It seems June is a good month all-round for stargazers, as NASA added Mars and Mercury will appear ‘ultra-close together immediately after sunset’ for two days the following week, on June 17 and 18.
You’ll need a pretty clear view of the western horizon to catch them, as the pair will be only a few degrees above it. But it should be spectacular if you can manage it.
In the middle of the month, from about June 14th to the 19th, look for the Moon to form a beautiful lineup in the sky with Jupiter and Saturn that changes each night as the Moon moves in its orbit around Earth.
Don’t miss your chance to see the impressive astronomical sights over the next few weeks!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.