Jupiter Closest To Earth on November 1–2, Before Opposition

Photo Credit
NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Judy S

How to See Jupiter at its Best in 2023

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It’s your annual opportunity to see Jupiter at biggest and brightest! The Giant Planet reaches “opposition” on November 2–3, 2023 as Earth passes between it and the Sun. Just one day prior, on November 1–2, Jupiter reaches its closest point to Earth. Learn more from Bob Berman.

Jupiter in Opposition

Notice planet Jupiter in the night skies? You can’t miss it. It’s dazzlingly bright the first week of November.

Jupiter’s opposition on November 2–3 occurs at 5 UTC (12 a.m. CDT). Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be concerned about! “Opposition” means that Jupiter will be opposite the Sun in our sky, as Earth flies directly between the two celestial bodies. 

During its annual opposition, the planet appears at its largest and brightest, shining directly over our heads!

Similar to seeing our full Moon, Jupiter’s full disk will be brightly illuminated. This is also a good time to view Jupiter’s biggest moons.

Image: Taken 9/14/2022. Jupiter, Europa (in transit), Io, and Ganymede. Credit: Vince Laine from Moon Township, PA.

Jupiter Closest in Earth

The day prior to Jupiter’s opposition, on November 1–2, Jupiter reaches its “perihelion,” which is the closest a planet gets to the Sun in its orbit.  The “perihelion” is usually around opposition. 

Of course, “closest” to Earth is a relative term! Jupiter will be 370 million miles away from Earth. 

Bottom-line: Jupiter is at its best for viewing! Jupiter is brighter than all of the stars, and dazzles all night.

How to See Jupiter

Well, here it is: Just find the brightest star anytime between nightfall and midnight, and you’ll find Jupiter. Yep, that’s it. No fiddling with charts. 

More detail? After sunset, just look towards the east after sunset as Jupiter ascends. It’s the very bright disk, shining at magnitude -2.9. It’s a bright disk. Jupiter crosses the sky overnight, and then sets before sunset in the West. 

If you want to mark your calendar, November 1 is the closest night. However, if you’re worried about weather conditions, Jupiter will be visible not only ALL night but also ALL through the month of October into November.

The ancients got it strangely correct when they named this giant planet the king of the gods.

Jupiter is a giant. You could take all the other planets and double their combined masses, and you wouldn’t get the weight of Jupiter alone. 

If you have a small telescope, use it! You’ll see the disk illuminated—striped with two dark belts. If you have a night when the stars are NOT twinkling, have a look. 

Jupiter’s colorful features not only belts but also white zones, small dark and white circular storms, and, most famous of all, its Great Red Spot. This giant hurricane, twice the size of Earth, is sometimes beige, but most years it’s brick red. Occasionally it’s orange. Nobody knows what causes the persistent color—probably sulfur or phosphorus compounds.

Viewing the Moons of Jupiter

Look for pinpoints of light in a straight line that bisect Jupiter like a string of pearls.  They’re called the “Galilean moons.”

Pretend you are Galileo and rediscover these tiny “stars” that he saw then —Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They are Jupiter’s four brightest moons. How many moons does Jupiter have? Learn 10 fun facts about Jupiter.

Image: The four Galilean moons that we can still observe to this day. Credit: https://www.stellarium-labs.com

Together with Mercury, Jupiter is the only planet with essentially no tilt to its axis, which is why its moons can appear so aligned. Note: You may not see them all at once as they rotate the planet. Ganymede is the largest moon, casting the largest shadow on the planet’s cloud tops when it transits in front of Jupiter.

It was on January 7, 1610 that Galileo saw three stars lined up alongside the dazzling planet. By the 13th, he had watched them change position each night, spotted a fourth as well, and realized they were orbiting around that world.

This, 407 years ago, was no small event. At the time, Church doctrine followed the writings of Aristotle and Ptolemy and insisted that Earth is the center of all motion. For some bizarre reason, they’d made it into a religious principle.

So Galileo enjoyed no benefits after he published his startling discovery that proved that Earth is NOT the center of all motion. Instead, those little moons whirling around Jupiter caused Galileo to be brought up on charges, forced him to recant at penalty of being burned at the stake, and left him to die penniless.  

Image: Callisto, Jupiter, Europa (in transit), Io, and Ganymede on 9/14/2022. Also note a non-Galilean moon, Amalthea, which is very special. Credit: Vince Laine 

But fast forward to our modern times, and now those four giant moons visible through the smallest cheap telescope are called “the Galilean satellites.” So it all worked out for the bearded, cantankerous Italian, or at least for his disembodied spirit.

See Jupiter and planet rise and set times.

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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