Jupiter Is About to Come So Close to Earth You Can See Its Moons With Binoculars: How and When to Watch

Skywatchers are in for a treat this month, because the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, will be at its biggest and brightest, according to NASA.

The space agency says that the gas giant will rise at dusk and remain visible all night with the naked eye. However, for an enhanced viewing experience, NASA recommends using binoculars or a small telescope, in which case you may just be able to catch a glimpse of one of the planet's four largest moons, or perhaps its characteristic cloud bands.

Next week will be the best time of the month to view Jupiter. On June 10, the planet reaches "opposition." This refers to the annual occurrence when Jupiter, the Earth and the sun are all arranged in a straight line, with our planet in the middle.

And on June 12, Jupiter will come closer to our planet than at any other point in 2019, according to EarthSky. In fact, at its closest approach, it will come within 398 million miles of the Earth.

Jupiter is by far the biggest planet in the solar system, being more than twice as large as all of the other planets combined.

A gas giant, it is known for its spectacular stripes and swirls, which actually represent cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, suspended in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.

Within this turbulent atmosphere lies the iconic Great Red Spot—a violent storm larger than our entire planet which has been continuously observed since 1830.

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, orbiting at a distance of around 484 million miles from our star. It rotates once about every 10 hours meaning its day is less than half of that of Earth's. However, it takes about 12 Earth years to complete one orbit of the sun.

Scientists have identified at least 79 moons orbiting the planet, of which 26 are yet to be officially named. The four largest are Io, Europa Ganymede and Callisto in order of biggest to smallest. All of these were spotted by the astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1609 and 1610.

Like the other gas giants in the solar system, Jupiter has a set of rings, although they are faint in comparison to those of Saturn, for example.

In total, nine spacecraft have visited Jupiter, with the most recent—Juno—arriving at the planet in 2016. Its main goals are to understand more about the planet's formation and evolution. Scientists are particularly interested in finding out whether or not Jupiter has a solid core, and how its magnetic field is generated.

Jupiter in the sky
A waning crescent Moon, lost in haze, rises over the Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City on February 27. The planet Jupiter can be seen nearby, along with three of its largest moons. From left to right, they are: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Jupiter's moon Io is also included within the frame, but at this scale is lost in the giant planet's glare. NASA/Bill Dunford