Jupiter makes closest approach to Earth in 59 years: When is Jupiter visible in the UK? Why is it closer now?

Jupiter, or as ancient Rome described it the ‘God of Sky and Thunder’, will appear in the sky brighter than ever this evening as the giant planet moves the closest it's been to Earth in 59 years - here’s everything you need to know.

When will Jupiter be closest to Earth?

Jupiter will be the closest it has been to Earth in 59 years today, 26 September.

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On this day, Jupiter will rise from the East as the Sun sets in the West making Jupiter beam brighter and become more visible.

On 26 September Jupiter will be roughly 367 million miles away from Earth, this is roughly 300 million miles closer to our planet than its farthest away point.
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Dr Adam Kobelski, a Research Astrophysicist for NASA, said: “Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the (if not the) brightest objects in the night sky.”

When will Jupiter be visible in the UK?

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To see Jupiter in the sky tonight simply look to the Eastern horizon around sunset onwards.

According to the TimeAndDate website, sunset in Glasgow will take place at 7.06pm for example – you can use this tool to determine when the sun will set in your UK area.

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The gas giant Jupiter is estimated to be 69,911 kilometres in radius while planet Earth is 6,371 kilometres.

Dr Kobelski said: “The views should be great for a few days before and after September 26.

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“So, take advantage of good weather on either side of this date to take in the sight.”

Will you need a telescope to see Jupiter?

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Jupiter will be viewable in the sky even with the naked eye.

However, those with optical equipment like telescopes will enjoy more breathtaking views of the gas giant even with low magnification.

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Dr Kobelski said: “With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible.”

According to him, anyone who wants a better view should invest in a telescope of 4 inches or more and experiment with green or blue filters as these enhance the visibility of Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot” (an enormous vortex) and cloud layers.

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Why will Jupiter appear so bright today?

Around the same time that Jupiter will be closest to Earth it will shine more brightly than ever, this is due to an event that only occurs every 13 months called the Jupiter opposition.

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The planet being in opposition means Earth is directly between the Sun and Jupiter, according to Royal Museums Greenwich.

In other words, while Jupiter is in opposition this means that these celestial bodies have aligned.

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How close will Jupiter be to Earth?

Jupiter and Earth’s distance between one another varies over time as the two planets follow elliptical orbits.

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Due to this, the furthest the two will be apart is 600 million miles while the closest distance (which we will experience on Monday) will be within 367 million miles of each other.



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