Today, July 09, 2008 – The big planet Jupiter is in opposition.

What does it mean?

Both the Earth, and Jupiter are on the same side of the Sun, and you can almost draw a straight line through them (Just for a moment assume all the three objects are in the same plane 🙂 )

If you were able to go far far away above the solar system, you will see something like this.

View from top

View from top

I guess you’ll have to click on the picture to see anything 🙂 The yellow dot is the Sun, the blue dot is the Earth and the green dot is the Jupiter.

So what?

You’ll see Jupiter for most part of the night. It rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise. Also, it is at its brightest, because it is at the nearest distance to Earth.

How to locate it?

Look in the Eastern/ South-Eastern sky about an hour after the sunset. You should see Jupiter as a brilliant white star. Glowing at magnitude of -2.7, there is no other star in the region which is as bright.

Here is a star map for those who are interested. Jupiter is in Sagittarius, just below the curvy Scorpious. Standing eastward, drop a straight line to the horizon from the bright red star Antares, and you will see Jupiter! Click on the image for a zoomed view.

Eastern sky in evenings - July 2008

Eastern sky in evenings - July 2008

These events are not rare events – Jupiter is in opposition once in about 400 days. But if you want to see Jupiter and it’s moons in a backyard telescope, this is probably the best time.