Stargazing: Jupiter nears opposition

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On Dec. 2, Jupiter and the Sun will be on opposite sides of the sky. Astronomers call this "opposition." During opposition, the sun, Earth and Jupiter will be in a straight line with the Earth in the middle.

During opposition, the pale peach-colored Jupiter will shine at a brilliant --2.83 magnitude, and will rise in the east around sunset and set in the west around sunrise.

Even though Earth and Jupiter will be as close as they will get to each other all year (375 million miles), it's not the distance between the two worlds that makes Jupiter so bright. Jupiter's size and brightly reflective clouds make the planet dazzle.

Jupiter is 11 times as wide as the Earth, with about 121 times more surface area.

To locate Jupiter, step outside about 9 p.m. and face the east. The king of the planets can be found about 35 degrees above the horizon. Binoculars or a small telescope will reveal the gas giant's four large Galilean moons.



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