September 26, 2022: Jupiter has a close opposition tonight. The Jovian Giant shines brightly in the sky all night. Before sunup, bright stars accompany Mars in the southern sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:42 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 6:41 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Jupiter is at opposition today. The planet is closest to Earth and at its brightest at night. Earth is between the planet and the sun. This occurs at 2:33 p.m. CDT, although the exact time is not critical. For many days around opposition, it is near this observing prime location.
It is opposite the sun in the sky. The planet rises in the eastern sky at sunset. It is low in the eastern sky during the early evening hours. By midnight it is in the southern sky. Before daybreak the planet is in the west.
Jupiter appears at opposition again next year on November 3, 2023, followed by December 7, 2024. The planet moves slowly enough around the sun that our faster-moving world catches and passes the Jovian Giant each year, although over a month later than the previous opposition.
In comparison, Saturn’s oppositions occur about every 378 days. The next one is August 27, 2023. On a larger orbital path, the Ringed Wonder moves slower allowing Earth it catch up to it in a slower time interval.
Following its opposition on December 7, 2022, Mars is at opposition again January 15, 2025, 25 months, 25 days later.
Unlike Mars, Jupiter’s atmospheric features and satellites are easily visible through telescopes at anytime during its appearance, even though giant Jupiter is farther away. Jupiter is very large with atmospheric features larger than Earth. Its largest satellites rival Mars’ size.
Here is today’s planet forecast:
Step outside about an hour before sunrise. The stars that shine brightly during winter’s evening hours are in the southern sky during the predawn hour of early autumn. Without the cold temperatures, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Procyon, Pollux, Castor, Capella, and Aldebaran shine brightly during the cool mornings. The Pleiades star cluster seems to be leading the stellar parade westward.
The star cluster is part of the constellation Taurus, that is outlined on the chart above. Mars is between the Bull’s head and horns.
The Red Planet continues its eastward march, but begins to slow to begin its retrograde motion in about a month, after it passes between the horns.
At this hour, Jupiter is low in the west-southwest. It appears lower in the sky each morning. On October 1, it is at opposition with Venus. Each morning thereafter, Jupiter sets before Venus rises.
Venus continues to slide into bright morning twilight, rising 36 minutes before the sun. As the Venus-Jupiter opposition approaches, can you find them at about 20 minutes before sunrise? Venus is in the eastern sky, near the horizon, while Jupiter is in the west. You’ll need a binocular and a clear horizon.
Mercury is entering the morning sky. This morning it rises nine minutes after Venus. The speedy planet passes 3.2° below the Morning Star, but Mercury is too dim to locate easily. In less than two weeks, Mercury begins its best morning appearance of the year.
On its opposition evening, Jupiter is “that bright star” in the eastern sky during the early evening hours. As was mentioned in yesterday’s article and podcast, find a local astronomy club or ask the neighborhood sky watcher to show you Jupiter and Saturn through a telescope. Seeing these worlds through a telescopic eyepiece is a memorable experience.
An hour after sunset, Jupiter is too low in the sky for a clear view. Near the horizon, the atmosphere blurs the view of the planets. Wait until at least two hours after sunset to see the zones and belts, cloud bands that are whipped parallel to the planet’s equator from the rapid rotation.
Saturn is to the upper right of Jupiter in eastern Capricornus, near Deneb Algedi and Nashira. The planet continues to retrograde, widening the gap to Nashira and approaching Iota Capricorni (ι Cap on the chart).
Mars rises later in the evening and after midnight, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are strung along an arc across the sky.
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