Washington, Sep 21 (ANI): Skygazers got a chance to see the brightest Jupiter Monday night when the planet came closest to Earth since 1951.
In fact, for about the next four months the giant planet will be teamed up with a distant relative: Uranus.
Jupiter will officially be nearest to our planet-368 million miles (592 million kilometers) away-when it reaches opposition, the term for when the sun, Earth, and a given planet are lined up in a row."Oppositions of the Earth and Jupiter occur roughly every 400 days, due to Earth catching up to Jupiter and lapping it in its race around the sun," National Geographic News quoted Raminder Singh Samra, resident astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, as saying.
"But because the orbits of the planets are slightly elliptical, the distances between oppositions vary, and so the next time [Earth and Jupiter] are this close won't be until 2022," he added.
For the rest of September, Jupiter will be the brightest object in the sky, aside from the moon.
The planet will be visible all night long, rising in the east at sunset and setting in the west around sunrise.
On September 22 the full moon will park itself just above Jupiter, making for a striking cosmic duo to the unaided eye.
The following night the moon will sit just to Jupiter's left.
What's more, with just binoculars, stargazers can already see the much more distant planet Uranus not quite behind Jupiter, visible as a faint bluish orb fewer than two full-moon discs away from the brighter planet.
"As Uranus is about five times further away than Jupiter and about a third the size, it will be about 2,800 times fainter than Jupiter," said Singh.
But "being so close to each other in the sky, it will be possible to see both planets at the same time through a pair of binoculars," he added.
The planetary pair will appear snuggled up closest in the sky for the next few weeks and will slowly drift apart by the end of the year.
Using just binoculars, sky-watchers will get an eyeful of the planet's four biggest moons, which will appear as tiny dots moving beside the planet. (ANI)