© NASA/Cassini

Jupiter at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

Objects: Jupiter
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The sky at

Jupiter will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Gemini, it will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.

From Fairfield, it will be visible between 17:20 and 06:36. It will become accessible around 17:20, when it rises to an altitude of 7° above your north-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 23:58, 71° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 06:36 when it sinks below 7° above your north-western horizon.

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2013–2014 apparition of Jupiter

06 Nov 2013 – Jupiter enters retrograde motion
05 Jan 2014 – Jupiter at opposition
06 Mar 2014 – Jupiter ends retrograde motion

A close approach to the Earth

At around the same time that Jupiter passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest and largest.

This happens because when Jupiter lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, the Earth passes between Jupiter and the Sun. The solar system is lined up with Jupiter and the Earth on the same side of the Sun, as shown by the configuration labelled perigee in the diagram below:


When a planet is at opposition, the solar system is aligned such that the planet lies on the same side of the Sun as the Earth. At this time, the planet makes its perigee, or closest approach to the Earth. Not drawn to scale.

The panels below show a comparison of the apparent size of Jupiter when seen at opposition in 2014, and when it is most distant from the Earth at solar conjunction.

Jupiter
Jupiter at 2014 opposition
Jupiter
Jupiter at solar conjunction

A comparison of the size of Jupiter as seen at 2014 opposition and at solar conjunction.

In practice, however, Jupiter orbits much further out in the solar system than the Earth – at an average distance from the Sun of 5.20 times that of the Earth, and so its angular size does not vary much as it cycles between opposition and solar conjunction.

Observing Jupiter

At opposition, Jupiter is visible for much of the night. When it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky, this means that it rises at around the time the Sun sets, and it sets at around the time the Sun rises. It reaches its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.

But even when it is at its closest point to the Earth, it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light with the naked eye, though a good pair of binoculars is sufficient to reveal it as a disk of light with accompanying system of moons.

A chart of the path of Jupiter across the sky in 2014 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

At the moment of opposition, Jupiter will lie at a distance of 4.21 AU, and its disk will measure 45.8 arcsec in diameter, shining at magnitude -2.7. Its celestial coordinates at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Jupiter 07h06m10s 22°41'N Gemini -2.7 45.8"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

Over the weeks following its opposition, Jupiter will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months.

The sky on 05 January 2014
Sunrise
07:18
Sunset
16:38
Twilight ends
18:18
Twilight begins
05:38

4-day old moon
Waxing Crescent

31%

4 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:50 12:21 16:53
Venus 07:35 12:35 17:34
Moon 09:57 15:59 22:10
Mars 23:56 05:48 11:39
Jupiter 16:29 23:58 07:28
Saturn 03:01 08:08 13:14
All times shown in EST.

Source

The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

05 Jan 2014  –  Jupiter at opposition
06 Feb 2015  –  Jupiter at opposition
08 Mar 2016  –  Jupiter at opposition
07 Apr 2017  –  Jupiter at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/Cassini

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