Mighty Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, reaches opposition to the sun this week, giving the Earth its best view of the bright gas giant.
Opposition is a time when the Earth lies between a planet and the sun. It offers the best views because the planets are away from the glare of the sun and closer to Earth than usual.
While Jupiter reaches opposition May 8, it is closest to the Earth on May 10. Jupiter is now rising in the east as the sun is setting.
Florida Atlantic University will celebrate Jupiter’s opposition by opening its astronomical observatory for a free public viewing Friday.
“There is something visceral, personal and authentically real that one experiences when you look through a telescope at a celestial object,” said FAU astronomer Eric Vandernoot. “When you witness it then, it is just you and the object, with nothing in between to perhaps alter your view of it.”
In addition to the observatory access, there will be a presentation about Jupiter and its moons, the formation of the solar system and a discussion about NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
“It is one of the few events that I know of around here, where people come sit down for the presentation, run up to the scope for a peep, come down and continue the presentation and stay for hours discussing science,” Vandernoot said.
The best viewing is when Jupiter appears high up at the horizon, which occurs at 1 a.m., but a view through the telescope is available all night.
Vandernoot said a volunteer will operate the telescope, while he gives the lectures below the the telescope platform.
For more information about the event, check the FAU observatory website.
Jupiter’s opposition will be the first of three this summer with Saturn’s at the end of June and the opposition of Mars on July 27.