The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, is at its closest approach to the Earth this year, which is good news for sky watchers.
The largest planet of the solar system will shine brightest and appear biggest in the skies in next few days.
On Friday, Jupiter will be in opposition.
Still, the comparatively small distance combined with the angles of the planets relative to the sun yields a solid opportunity for earthlings to take a look at their friendly neighborhood gas giant. That's when Jupiter, Earth and the sun all line up, with Earth in the middle.
Planet Jupiter continues to be called the Solar system's vacuum cleaner, because of its enormous gravity right location near the inner Solar-system.
On April 7, Jupiter will be situated at its closest point towards our planet, being at only 415 million miles from Terra.
Without a telescope, Jupiter is still quite distinct, with a characteristic orangey glow. And even if you miss tonight, the following week should still provide great views of Jupiter.
The most prominent feature in the image is, of course, the Great Red Spot - a persistent and big storm that has been rumbling in the gas giant's southern hemisphere for at least the past 300 Earth years. And if you happen to have a telescope (or a pair of binoculars) around, you can even take a quick glance at its four bright moons- Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io. It won't be hard to spot - it will be the brightest celestial object in the sky, except the moon. Depending on Jupiter's position with respect to the Earth, it might vary in visual magnitude while in conjunction with the Sun. Also, the gas giant planet's famous Great Red Spot is fully visible, accenting the surface of Jupiter.
On Friday night, from anywhere in the United States, you should be able to spot Jupiter tucked in the center of the constellation Virgo in the Southeastern sky. On April 3, the Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of these circumstances by imaging the giant planet with the Wide Field Camera 3, which is capable of utilizing infrared, optical, and ultraviolet light to create a more comprehensive image of the planet's atmosphere. This year Jupiter will be precisely 414,122,760 miles away from Earth.