Jupiter at its best | Highlight

Each year, one year and one month after the previous year, the giant planet Jupiter enters what we call opposition.

It rises towards the eastern sky while the sun sets in front of Jupiter in the western sky. This is when Jupiter and the Earth are closer to each other, and when Jupiter is at its maximum size and brightness seen from Earth.

Jupiter's opposition will occur this year on May 8, as it does every 399 days, due to the different orbital speeds of Earth and Jupiter. While the Earth orbits the sun every year; Jupiter takes 12 years to do the same.

At 9:30 p.m. Jupiter will be above the eastern horizon enough to be unmistakable, at magnitude -2.5.

For observers of the sky with telescopes, Jupiter reveals many details of its surface, including two dark equatorial belts that extend over the brightest area on the planet's equator. [19659002] Alternate series of zones and belts can be seen from time to time between the equator and the poles, while the Earth's atmosphere is stabilized, or when viewed through larger telescopes.

Small telescopes and even binoculars will show the four bright moons of Jupiter. On May 8, Io, Europa and Callisto line up on the east (left) side of Jupiter; while Ganymede will be alone on the right side of Jupiter.

Jupiter will attract attention all month because it is not established until dawn and because it is very bright. But Saturn also appears in the eastern sky around midnight on May 1; and around 10 p.m. on May 30

Saturn does not approach the brightness of Jupiter, but it outshines all nearby Sagittarius stars around it, illuminating from +0.3 to +0.2 through May. Saturn will reach opposition at the end of June, and will light up even more at 0.0.

Saturn is always magnificent through telescopes; even smaller reaches show the Cbadini division, a dark gap between the outer ring A and the brighter B ring in Saturn's ring system.

Meanwhile, the appearance of Mars changes a lot during May, when it approaches its opposition at the end of July. This opposition will bring Mars closer to Earth more than it has been in 15 years.

Mars will double in brightness during the month of May, going from -0.4 to -1.2 in magnitude. This will make it almost as bright as Sirius, the brightest star.

Mars rises around 1:30 a.m. between the stars of Sagittarius, but it moves eastward in its orbit in Capricorn during the month, where it will remain until August. 19659002] The moon makes its appearance near several planets on several occasions during the month of May. Because the moon is seen so easily in our skies, it will help to point to particular planets that we will seek to find.

A gibbous waning moon will be seen just above Mars on the morning of May 6 and a thin crescent moon will be below Venus in the western sky at dusk on May 17. Venus will be easier to detect that night because it is shining in magnitude -3.9.

And an almost full moon appears (full moon on May 29) above Jupiter around 2 a. m. May 27 and above Saturn on May 31.


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