So close you can count its moons

Planet Jupiter, Photo Date: 4/21/2014 / Photo: NASA / MGN

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Tonight Jupiter will be in opposition, which means Earth is between the Sun and the largest planet in our solar system. Over the next two nights, Jupiter will be at its nearest point to Earth. With a small telescope or maybe even binoculars, you might be able to spot the planet’s four largest moons and possibly even the bands of clouds around the gas giant.

The challenges to see Jupiter are the planet will be too low on the horizon (or below the horizon) and there’s too much daylight in most of the state.

Though Jupiter will get high enough in the sky to be seen around Anchorage, the city is in the 28 day period where it doesn’t really get dark. Beginning last Friday, Anchorage will experience 24-hours of daylight and twilight, with the sun dipping just six degrees below the horizon. On a clear night, that means, not much darkness.

Still, the skies will be clear tonight in Anchorage so look south. In the Anchorage area, Jupiter will rise at 11:03 p.m. and peak at 1:55 a.m. before setting at 4:48 a.m.

The area in the state with the best chance to see Jupiter up close is the Kenai Peninsula. The sky will be dark enough. Jupiter will be high in the sky and the weather looks good for clear skies.

The areas around Denali appear to be the farthest north that Jupiter can be seen, but it will be low on the horizon and there will be a lot of daylight. Juneau and the Panhandle are better situated to see Jupiter’s transit but rain and clouds are in the forecast. Bethel also has a good location for viewing but mostly cloudy skies are forecast for Monday night. Adak is in a similar situation. Jupiter will be high in the sky but mostly cloudy skies might infringe on any real viewing.

Jupiter’s four moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

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