Looking Up: Royal Opposition

Apr 3, 2017

Jupiter in the sky with diamonds.
Credit M. Procell

This week on Looking Up we hear about the king of planets heralding the arrival of spring.

Spring is here, and the stars that mark the warmer months are starting to appear in the southern Colorado Sky. But wait, what is that super bright star, rising in the east? To paraphrase the movie, that’s no Star! It’s Jupiter, making a bright and beautiful return to the night sky, after hiding in the daytime skies for the winter.  

And you may notice that Jupiter is even brighter than usual, because on April 7th, Jupiter will reach “opposition,” which means Jupiter is “opposite” the Earth in the sky. So, it’s up all night. And it’s also closer than usual, at only about 414 million miles away. And you won’t miss it, as Jupiter is over 25 times brighter than the near-by star Spica, usually considered a bright star in its own right.

With more than twice the mass of all the other planets combined, Jupiter is the true giant planet of our solar system, yet it spins so fast that a “day” on Jupiter is just under 10 Earth hours. Through a telescope, you may even be able to notice that the rapid spin has made Jupiter bigger around the middle that it is up top! Talk about taking something out for a spin! And don’t forget to look for the four bright “Galilean moons” of Jupiter, lined up like bright diamonds along Jupiter’s equatorial plane.  

If you’d like to take a closer look at Jupiter or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit CSASTRO.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!