Earth is about to pass between the sun and Jupiter, placing Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky on March 8, 2016, at 11 Universal Time (5 a.m. Central Time). Astronomers call this event an opposition of Jupiter. Therefore, Jupiter now rises in the east around sunset, climbs highest in the sky at midnight and sets in the west around sunrise. It shines more brightly than any star in the evening sky, and is the second-brightest planet, after Venus. But Venus only shines in the morning at present while Jupiter stays out all night long.
Jupiter (red) completes one orbit of the Sun (center) for every 11.86 orbits of the Earth (blue). When we on Earth are between the sun and Jupiter, the planet appears opposite the sun in our sky. Astronomers call this “opposition.”
Jupiter blazes away in front of the constellation Leo the Lion. The closest 1st-magnitude star to Jupiter is Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.However, dazzling Jupiter outshines this star by over 30 times.
Jupiter comes to opposition about every 13 months. In other words, that’s how long Earth takes to travel once around the sun relative to Jupiter. For instance, last year – in 2015 – Jupiter’s opposition date was February 6. Next year – in 2017 – it’ll be April 7.
Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth for the year always falls on or near this planet’s opposition date. In 2016, Jupiter comes closest to Earth on its opposition date, coming to within 413 million miles (664 million kilometers) of Earth.
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