Jupiter will be a “mere” 368 million miles away from Earth tomorrow night. If skies are clear, it will be easy to see with the naked eye.
The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter will be the closest to Earth that it gets in its 12 year orbit around the sun. The next time it gets this close to Earth will be in 2022.
From the North American continent, Jupiter can be located to the east at sunset. It will be at its brightest, and at its highest point in the night sky, near midnight.
Normally, the brightest object in the night sky will be the moon, then Venus, and then Jupiter. For the next few weeks though, Jupiter will outshine Venus. With the use of a large pair of binoculars or a telescope, viewers will get an excellent view of Jupiter, and may be able to see the thin line of Jupiter’s moons extending out from the center.
Jupiter will even be slightly brighter on this 12 year pass than others. There are two reasons for this. For one, because the orbits of both Earth and Jupiter are elongated, the two planets are not exactly the same distance apart on each pass. This will be the closest pass since 1963. The second reason it will be brighter is due to a weather phenomenon. The dark band of clouds normal seen in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere is at a low point. Astronomers have noted in the past that it ebbs and flows as weather on the planet changes. With the band at its ebb point, Jupiter is approximately 4% brighter than normal.