By Jove: Our 2016 Guide Jupiter at Opposition

Getting closer... Jupiter, imaged on February 24th. Image credit and copyright: Efrain Morales

Ready to explore the largest planet in our solar system? The month of March heralds the return of Jupiter to evening skies. Early March 2016 sees the planet Jupiter starting off the month less than one degree from the star Sigma Leonis. Opposition occurs on March 8th, at 11:00 Universal Time (UT). Watch out for those double shadow transits, as we’re in the midst of a season of favorable events involving the Jovian moons (See last week’s post). During opposition, the four large major moons of Jupiter cast their shadows nearly straight back onto the Jovian cloud-tops as seen from our Earthly perspective. At quadrature—the point when Jupiter stakes out a ‘quadrant’ of the sky 90 degrees east or west of the Sun as seen from the Earth –the moons and the planet Jupiter itself casts their shadows off to one side.The Moon occults Jupiter three times in 2016: July 9th, August 6th and September 2nd. The very best is the final event on September 2nd, which occurs during daylight hours for Mexico and the western US, just 18 degrees east of the Sun in the evening sky. Jupiter also passes just 4′ from Venus the month prior on August 27th. Solar opposition for Jupiter in 2016 occurs on September 26th.Every ancient culture noticed five ‘wandering stars’ that stubbornly refused to maintain their station, and instead moved across the sky. The four major points that describe a planet’s apparent motion are: opposition, solar conjunction, and the east and west quadrature points.As the name suggests, opposition is simply the point at which a given outer planet rises ‘opposite’ to the setting Sun. Jupiter orbits the Sun once every 11.9 years, meaning it has moved roughly one zodiacal constellation eastward per every —> Read More