Don’t miss a bigger, brighter Jupiter in the night sky this week!

Jupiter as seen from the Juno spacecraft. Courtesy: NASA.gov

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, will appear brighter and larger in the night sky than any other time this year. That’s because every 13 months, the Earth and Jupiter are the closest to each other in their respective orbits. In fact, they won’t be this close to each other again until May 9, 2018.

But it’s not really THAT close. If you want to be technical about it, Jupiter will still be around 414 million miles away from us. So while Jupiter will be bigger and brighter, it won’t be too noticeable with your naked eye. However, with a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to make out the color of the gas giant and may even be able to see the Great Red Spot.

Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over a span of 20 years, shows how the planet’s trademark spot has decreased in size over the years.

If you want to catch Jupiter in all of it’s glory, it will be at it’s closest through Friday evening into Saturday morning so you’ll have a few opportunities to see it. The best time to look will be around dusk as the sun is setting.

Don’t worry if you miss it. A few days later, the big, bright planet will be right alongside the Full Moon and will still be pretty bright and easy to find.

This isn’t the only fun thing to search the sky for this month though. On April 2, the Lyrid meteor shower will give you an opportunity to see a few shooting stars as the Earth travels through the debris left by the Comet Thatcher. Even better news for the Lyrids: the moon will be approaching its New moon phase, so there won’t be as much light in the sky.