989 days ago
Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed
Jupiter will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Sagittarius, it will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight local time.
From Cambridge, it will be visible between 21:09 and 04:30. It will become accessible around 21:09, when it rises to an altitude of 7° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 00:49, 25° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 04:30 when it sinks below 7° above your south-western horizon.
2020 apparition of Jupiter
|14 May 2020||–||Jupiter enters retrograde motion|
|14 Jul 2020||–||Jupiter at opposition|
|15 Jul 2020||–||Jupiter at perigee|
|12 Sep 2020||–||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 2020, and when it is most distant from the Earth at solar conjunction.
A comparison of the size of Jupiter as seen at 2020 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.
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 2020 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 4.14 AU, and its disk will measure 46.6 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|
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 14 Jul 2020
|The sky on 14 July 2020|
23 days old
All times shown in EDT.
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.
|14 Jul 2020||– Jupiter at opposition|
|19 Aug 2021||– Jupiter at opposition|
|26 Sep 2022||– Jupiter at opposition|
|03 Nov 2023||– Jupiter at opposition|