Named after the Ancient Roman king of the gods, Jupiter is the largest of all the planets – 1,300 times bigger than the Earth. Its staggering size makes it a promising target for binoculars, in spite of its incredible distance from us. Jupiter’s tempestuous surface is composed almost entirely of gas under extreme pressure, agitated by the Sun, orbital motion, and the planet’s own core.
Through binoculars, Jupiter is visible as a prominently large bright circle. Magnifications higher than 50x can catch beautiful stripes across the planet, as well as the Great Red Spot, a gargantuan storm on the planet’s surface three times as big as the Earth.
Sufficient dark adaptation reveals the four Galilean moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These are visible as four bright spots in a straight line around the planet.
Depending on where Jupiter is in its orbit around the Sun, it appears at different times of the year in the night sky. Check timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/ to see when it rises and sets, and the best times to view it.
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