© NASA/Cassini

Jupiter at opposition

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

Objects: Jupiter
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Jupiter will reach opposition, when it lies opposite to the Sun in the sky. Lying in the constellation Aquarius, 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 20:24 and 05:28. It will become accessible around 20:24, when it rises to an altitude of 7° above your south-eastern horizon. It will reach its highest point in the sky at 00:56, 36° above your southern horizon. It will become inaccessible around 05:28 when it sinks below 7° above your south-western horizon.

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2033 apparition of Jupiter

25 Jun 2033 – Jupiter enters retrograde motion
25 Aug 2033 – Jupiter at opposition
23 Oct 2033 – 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 2033, and when it is most distant from the Earth at solar conjunction.

Jupiter
Jupiter at 2033 opposition
Jupiter
Jupiter at solar conjunction

A comparison of the size of Jupiter as seen at 2033 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 2033 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 4.00 AU, and its disk will measure 48.2 arcsec in diameter, shining at magnitude -2.9. Its celestial coordinates at the moment it passes opposition will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Jupiter 22h17m20s 11°59'S Aquarius -2.9 48.2"

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 25 October 2021
Sunrise
07:17
Sunset
17:57
Twilight ends
19:33
Twilight begins
05:41

19-day old moon
Waning Gibbous

77%

19 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:40 11:30 17:20
Venus 11:27 15:48 20:08
Moon 20:17 04:07 12:04
Mars 06:46 12:15 17:44
Jupiter 15:08 20:17 01:25
Saturn 14:21 19:13 00:04
All times shown in EDT.

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

25 Aug 2033  –  Jupiter at opposition
01 Oct 2034  –  Jupiter at opposition
08 Nov 2035  –  Jupiter at opposition
12 Dec 2036  –  Jupiter at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/Cassini

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