Jupiter at night: How to see the gas giant light up the night skies this month

Jupiter will make a rare appearance over our night skies this month. Here is how you can witness Jupiter and even its moons in June. 

Galileo Galilei’s 1610 discovery of Jupiter’s moons, the first moons found beyond Earth was a discovery that transformed how we viewed the universe. Jupiter is a remarkable planet, with US space agency NASA sending its Juno orbiter to this gas giant world to learn more about this enormous world. And amateur astronomers are in for a treat this month when the fifth planet from the Sun will make a rare appearance in the heavens when it comes so close even its Jupiter moons will be easily visible. And Jupiter will be well-illuminated from sunset to sunrise.

Then only a few days later, Jupiter, the moon, and the red star Antares will make up a stellar trio in the night sky. Jupiter will be closest to our planet in its orbital cycle, approximately 398 million miles away from Earth.

Compared to last year’s opposition, it will be 11 million miles closer, making it significantly more illuminated on the night of June 10. Stargazers keen on witnessing Jupiter arrive in the night sky should start preparations by sourcing the right stargazing equipment.

Because of this relative proximity, Jupiter’s atmospheric details and even it moons will be visible with a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars. And Jupiter’s fiery Great Red Spot can be seen with a larger backyard telescope, weather permitting. This red spot is in fact a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years. Jupiter will five days later be part of another awe-inspiring spectacle in the night sky.

Shortly after sunset on June 15, you can look towards the southeast side of the sky for the moon, which will be in a triangular formation with Jupiter and Antares.

Jupiter: The gas giant's red spot is in fact a giant storm bigger than Earth

Antares is a star found in the Scorpius constellation. And evening time on June 16 will continue to show this triangle from another angle, where the moon will move to the other side of Jupiter. Of course, Jupiter won’t be the only cool celestial sight this month: The June solstice for the Northern Hemisphere will start at 4.54pm BST (11.54am ET) on June 21, where the sun will appear to stand still on the horizon. And the planet Mercury will also be easily visible on the night of Sunday, June 23.

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