If you look up at the sky on Sunday night, you could be treated to a spectacular view as Jupiter will be closest to the Earth, which hasn’t happened in 59 years.
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and the third brightest celestial body in our night skies, after the full moon and Venus, despite it being further away than Mars or Mercury, astrophysicist Stelios Tsangarides told the Cyprus News Agency.
He added that if people have looked up at the sky recently and noticed an “especially bright” object the likelihood is that it is Jupiter, as Venus is not visible during September.
Tsangarides said that Jupiter will be most visible on Sunday night, as it will at that point be at its closest to the Earth, a mere 590 million kilometres away.
The other reason Jupiter will be so bright is because it will be behind the Earth, allowing for the entire shape of the planet to be visible.
“The combination of the two phenomena will make Jupiter appear even brighter and bigger,” he said.
Speaking further about the gas giant, Tsangarides said that the four biggest moons of Jupiter, which according to Nasa’s information has 80 moons, were first discovered in January 1610 by Galileo Galilei.
Its moons of Europa and Ganymede have garnered attention as evidence has been found in recent decades they may contain oceans underneath their icy shells.
“It is thought that due to the tidal forces that Jupiter exerts on them, a large inner layer of ice is under the influence of strong friction and has melted. In fact, jets of water have been observed at the south pole of Europa,” Tsangarides said.
According to Nasa, from 1995 to 2003, the Galileo spacecraft made observations from repeated elliptical orbits around Jupiter, passing as close as 261km to the surfaces of the Galilean moons. These close approaches resulted in images with unprecedented detail of selected portions of the surfaces.
To understand Jupiter’s size as a planet, Tsangarides said that it has eleven times the diameter of Earth, meaning that approximately 1,000 Earth-sized planets could fit into it.
The planet’s great red spot, he added is a storm, which has been observed for the last 200 years.