Jupiter, blazing in the eastern sky after dark

Now, in the evening sky after 8pm and earlier every night, the planet Jupiter rises above the eastern horizon, blazing like an airplane coming in for a landing. But it doesn’t move as fast as an airplane.

Jupiter is bright because it’s a giant planet and Earth is a bit closer now to Jupiter, so Jupiter is bigger and brighter from now through December. About Halloween-time, Jupiter will be up all night and higher in the sky each night after sunset – you won’t even have to stay up late!

Use any optical aid for a better view. Start with a pair of binoculars. Hold the binoculars steady by leaning them against something firm (a corner of the house works for me), look for up to four tiny dots very close to the dazzling disc of the planet.

Click to enlage and see what Jupiter and its moons can look like in a small telescope

If you have a telescope of any kind, get it steadily held or mounted. A small scope will show the moons spread out a bit further from the planet and two thin bands darker than the rest of the planet. If the planet is too bright for you – try sunglasses! Seriously! Dimming the glare can make it easier to see the bands. Or, if you find the planet right after sunset the brighter sky reduces the contrast and also makes the bands clearer. Larger telescopes and higher powers will show more details in the bands and show the moons to be tiny worlds of their own.

The longer you look, the more details you’ll be able to see, so give Jupiter some time when skies clear this weekend.

See the previous entry for photos!

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