The biggest gas giant in the solar system, Jupiter is 319 times more massive than earth. The part we see through a telescope is mostly its clouds composed of ammonium hydrosulfide (brown) and ammonia (white). The appearance of Jupiter changes over time due to the growth in storms, changes in the color of cloud belts, etc. Jupiter rotates in its orbit almost every 10 hours. So you will notice changes in its appearance every 15 minutes. It orbits the sun in almost 12 earth years.
Quick Guide to Observe Jupiter
When Jupiter is high in the sky, at least 30 degrees above the horizon, it is easiest to see via a telescope. With unaided eyes, Jupiter appears from the earth as a brilliant yellow-white star. However, it doesn’t sparkle. To confirm that Jupiter is visible in the sky and to learn its location and timing, use the astronomy app. Try to locate Jupiter in the sky with your bare eyes at first after learning the location and time to observe it. Jupiter is easily seen since it is red. Using an eyepiece with a low magnification and a long focal length, center Jupiter in your telescope. Even with a powerful eyepiece, it will seem rather little. Search for further features on Jupiter. Even with a 2-4 inch telescope, Jupiter will be visible. One or two bands on Jupiter can be seen using small to medium telescopes at magnifications of 50x to 100x.
To Find Jupiter You Will Need a Star Chart or App.
Several astronomy apps are available on the internet that will provide a view of the night sky at the selected time. Stellarium, SkEye, etc are such popular apps. You also can use star charts like The Stars by H. A. Rey or a star atlas that will show you the position of the constellations. Starwheel is also such an all-sky chart that provides the time and date of specific stars when they are up in the night sky. One of the popular star wheels is The Night Sky Two-Sided Planisphere.
How to find Jupiter?
These are three main steps to find Jupiter:
- To locate and center the object, use an eyepiece with a long focal length and low magnification. It will be visible as a rather tiny, brilliant dot.
- Then, use an eyepiece with a shorter focal length, then raise the magnification gradually.
- Even with increased magnification, it will still appear to be quite little.
What is the best time to observe Jupiter?
Jupiter through a telescope is best seen when it is high in the sky at least above 30 degrees altitude. Otherwise, atmospheric dispersion will make the image blurry with false color fringing. When Jupiter is in the southern constellation, the northern hemisphere observers will see it low in the southern sky. But when it is in the northern constellation, northern people will find it very high in the sky. During opposition, it will be found high in the middle of the sky at midnight. However, Jupiter is always visible in the night sky. If you have a telescope, do not miss the chance to observe it while waiting for the opposition.
When Is Jupiter at its Brightest in the sky?
Jupiter looks like a bright yellow-white star from the earth in bare eyes. But it does not twinkle. If you know the constellation of Jupiter at that time, it will be easy to find out in the night sky. The table below provides the time when Jupiter will be at its opposition in the next 10 years which means it will reach its brightest look from the earth.
|Date of Opposition||Pointer stars during opposition||Constellation|
|26 Sept 2022||Southern side of Great Pegasus Square||Pisces|
|3 Nov 2023||Western side of Taurus & Pleiades||Aries|
|7 Dec 2024||Northeast side of Aldebaran||Taurus|
|2025||No opposition||Taurus & Gemini|
|10 Jan 2026||South side of Pollux, high in the sky in Northern Hemisphere||Gemini|
|11 Feb 2027||West side of Leo asterism||Leo|
|12 Mar 2028||South side of Leo asterism||Leo|
|12 Apr 2029||Close to Spica||Virgo|
|13 May 2030||Northwest side of bright red star Antares||Libra|
|1 June 2031||Northwest side of teapot asterism||Ophiuchus|
|19 July 2032||East side of teapot asterism||Sagittarius|
How to find Jupiter with your phone?
Install the stargazing app to find Jupiter. Hold your phone standstill and open the app. The app will update your screen in real-time and indicate what is there in from of you.
5 Tips to observe Jupiter in the best way
- Look at Jupiter when it is high in the sky to avoid bad image quality due to air turbulence.
- Try to avoid light pollution to get better views.
- The more aperture telescope you will use, the better will be the views.
- When you are choosing the location of sky observation, make sure that Jupiter is not on your neighbor’s chimney because the smoke will cause turbulence and make the view worse.
- A blue filter works well for Jupiter. It helps to enhance the contrast in the belts and makes the view of the Great Red Spot clear. Other filters can prevent unwanted glare.
What can you see on Jupiter with a telescope?
On Jupiter you can see:
- The Great Red Spot.
- Jupiter’s Moons: Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede.
- Eclipse (when one of its moons moves through its shadow)
- Occultation (when one of its moons disappears behind it)
- Transit (when one of its moons comes in front of it.)
What telescope to see Jupiter?
Celestron 6mm Omni Plossl, Explore Scientific 4.7mm 82-degree eyepiece, Takahashi LE Series 5mm, and Takahashi 6mm Abbe are great telescopes to see Jupiter. A list of telescopes to see the planet Jupiter has more telescope options that can see Jupiter very clearly.
What size telescope to see Jupiter?
You will be able to see Jupiter even with a 2-4 inch telescope. But it depends on you how many details you want to see. 6 inches is the best size for a beginner telescope which will allow seeing the stripes, the Great red spot, and some other features on Jupiter. If you want to see more details and clearer views, you can upgrade your telescopes to more apertures.
What magnification is required to see Jupiter?
- With 50x-100x magnification in small or medium telescopes, you will see one or two bands on Jupiter. The shadow of a satellite or moons like Ganymede and Callisto can be visible too. The Great Red Spot may also be seen if the planet is in the proper position as it rotates.
- With 200x-400x magnification in a 6-inch telescope, more than two cloud belts will be visible with two dark brown barges. At 300x magnification in a 10-inch telescope makes Jupiter is sharp with multiple cloud bands.
- In large telescopes (12’’ or more) at 500-100x magnification, Jupiter will be very sharp with its cloud bands and moons. Ganymede’s albedo features will be also visible at this.
Enjoying Jupiter? Here are other things to see with a telescope.
Jupiter is one of the nine planets of our solar system. The same telescope cans show you the other planets too. The article Viewing Saturn Through A Telescope can guide you to spot and get the best views of Saturn. However, the sky is full of mysteries. You may observe the other distant stars, galaxies, and nebulae with your telescope. The amazing meteor showers and comets may also appear in your telescope if you know how to find them. You may go through the ‘List of things to see with a telescope’ to get a shortlist of several night sky objects you can observe with different telescopes.