Jupiter at Opposition -- closest approach for 2011
The Autumn evening sky is being dominated by one bright, shiny object: the planet Jupiter, which will be a highlight for several months in our skies. On October 28th, Jupiter reaches "opposition" in which it is in a line with the Earth and Sun (and no, that is not what has been causing the recent earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area!).
Image Courtesy NASA
When Earth travels around in its orbit, approximately every 13 months we have a close encounter with Jupiter. When we do, the gas giant looks impressive with or without a telescope. Without a telescope, Jupiter is extremely bright, easily 50 times brighter than the brightest stars in the sky right now. It rises due East just after sunset, and remains visible the entire night. Through a small amateur telescope, Jupiter is a fine target, easy to locate and impressive with bands across its disk and the four Galilean moons shining brightly. Now is the time to get out a telescope or binoculars and share the brilliance of Jupiter with someone.
In 2005 I began writing a column for the San Francisco Waldorf School newsletter called "The Urban Astronomer." I started this blog in 2007 as a place to archive my articles and to offer additional insights on the night sky - even if you live in a big city. In 2008 I became an occasional guest on the KFOG Morning Show, and more recently on KALW and KGO. Archived shows are posted on the blog.