It's an awesome time to capture a glimpse of the largest planet in our Solar System, and Hubble is angling to get a good luck.
If you enjoy staring through a telescope at the planets, Jupiter put on quite the show for you. The most massive planet in our solar system was at its closest point to Earth this year on Friday night, giving astronomers an incredibly clear view, or one of the clearest they’re going to get, of its beautiful, chaotic surface.
At the moment, the planet is at opposition, indicating that it is in a straight line with the Earth and the sun, so Jupiter is on the opposite side of the sky from the sun. It is visible in the southern sky just above the constellation Virgo for Northern Hemisphere observers.
If you missed Jupiter Friday night, it won’t move significantly in just a day or two, so you’ll still be blessed with some amazing views of the planet. Jupiter is about 415 million miles from Earth, and Hubble is able to get a more detailed view than usual thanks to its relative closeness at the moment. This allows us to see details like the cloud bands in greater clarity.
The video of Hubble’s remarkable footage of the planet is embedded at the bottom of this post.
“On April 3, 2017, as Jupiter made its nearest approach to Earth in a year, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope viewed the solar system’s largest planet in all of its up-close glory,” NASA said in a statement. “At a distance of 415 million miles (668 million kilometers) from Earth, Jupiter offered spectacular views of its colorful, roiling atmosphere, the legendary Great Red Spot, and it smaller companion at farther southern latitudes dubbed “Red Spot Jr.”
“The giant planet is now at “opposition,” positioned directly opposite the sun from the Earth. This means that the sun, Earth and Jupiter line up, with Earth sitting between the sun and the gas giant. Opposition also marks Jupiter’s closest point to us, and the planet appears brighter in the night sky than at any other time in the year.”