14 September 2010

King of the Sky

After the August doldrums and a dearth of posts on this blog, the cooler and refreshing air of autumn promises to energize me.  Even the nighttime sky is displaying more vivacity these days. 

Lately, Jupiter, top god in the Roman pantheon, is living up to its reputation. Look to the east after twilight and you will see the solar system's biggest planet brilliantly dominating the celestial landscape. According to Robert Naeye, editor-in-chief of Sky & Telescope magazine, Jupiter is "making its closest pass by Earth for the year.  And this year's pass is a little closer than any other between 1963 and 2022."  The night of closest approach is Monday, September 20, just two days before the autumnal equinox. (The picture below depicts Jupiter and the Moon as they will be in the evening sky on September 22. Click on it for a closer look.)  At that point, Jupiter will be a mere 368 million miles from Earth.

So, step outside tonight. Take a look to the east.  Jupiter won't be this bright again for another 12 years. 
Picture credits: Voyager 2 and University of Arizona Science Center

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