This is how to see Jupiter and its moons without a telescope tonight

By Conor Matchett
Monday, 10 June, 2019, 14:24
Jupiter and its moons will be visible without a telescope (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tonight (Mon 10 Jun) is the best day of the year to see the biggest planet in the solar system and its moons.

Jupiter and four of its moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - will all be clearly visible through binoculars.

Those lucky enough to spot the gas giant may also be able to spot the banded clouds that surround the planet.

Why is it such a good time?

Jupiter and its moons will be particularly visible on Monday 10 June due to the fact it will be directly opposite the sun, with ‘opposition’ meaning the planet, Earth and the sun will be aligned.

This means the planet will appear brighter in the sky and, as Jupiter will be near its closest distance to Earth this year, it will also appear slightly bigger.

Opposition only happens once every 13 months, meaning it could be a while until there is a similar chance to see the planet at such a high brightness.

The whole month of June should present chances to see Jupiter at its best, but tonight is considered the best opportunity.

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Which moons can you spot?

Jupiter has 79 moons, meaning it acts almost as a mini solar system in its own right.

Its gravity is extremely strong due to its mass, which allows it to attract space objects and trap them in its orbit.

Its four largest moons, will be particularly clear and bright in the sky tonight. If you are in a built-up area, however, the light pollution from buildings, cars and street lights may reduce your chances of seeing the planet and its moons.

NASA studying the planet

The NASA spacecraft Juno has been studying Jupiter for the last three years, taking pictures and mapping its surface.

The mission aims to unlock the secrets of the planet’s origin and evolution, which NASA hopes could shed light on the origins and the formation of the early solar system.

This story originally appeared on our sister site, the Sunderland Echo.