The Jupiter buzz that you may have been hearing is a bit like the "Mars as big as the Moon" emails that you get periodically. Today Jupiter is at opposition, exactly opposite the Sun in our sky. The earth is passing Jupiter in our respective orbits. If you have been hearing that Jupiter is closer and brighter than it has been in 50 years, well, that is mostly true. However, tonight Jupiter will look pretty much the same as it has all month, and will for the next month. Jupiter has been big and bright all summer, but tonight will be the peak. Just step outside at midnight and look to the south. You won't have any trouble spotting it; it will be brighter than any star. If it is cloudy where you are tonight, just look for it tomorrow night, or the next night, or the next.
Look at the Hubble telescope photo above. To give you an idea of just how big Jupiter is, Earth would fit nicely into the Red Spot on the lower left. Jupiter's orbit takes it sometimes a bit farther from the Sun (apogee) and sometimes a bit nearer (perigee). Since Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun, it passes through perigee once every 12 years. And if Jupiter is at perigee when the Earth overtakes Jupiter in its orbit (opposition), then we make the closest possible approach. Which is nearly the case tonight.
For more amazingly beautiful Hubble photos, click here.
Okay, where is my fall weather? I'm ready and waiting...
MOON SONG #4 of 99
This one is for all the Sisters of the Moon...
Peace, love, and happiness,