Jupiter will look bigger and brighter than it has in nearly 60 years on Monday night.
When it rises to the east late Monday, the largest planet in our solar system will be the closest it’s been to Earth since 1963, although that’s still 367 million miles away, NASA said.
At the same time, the planet will also reach “opposition,” the time it appears directly opposite the sun — making it look larger and brighter than any other occasion.
While Jupiter reaches opposition every 13 months, it is rare for the timing to coincide with the planet also being at its closest point to Earth — an overlap that will not happen for another 117 years, NASA noted.
“This is one of the fun things about living on a moving planet,” NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller told the Washington Post.
“Everything is lined up to make Jupiter the largest you will see in the sky for the last 59 years. … It will just be beautiful.”
Stargazers should have clear views of the planet for days, too, but with the best views late Monday, according to NASA research astrophysicist Adam Kobelski.
“Outside of the Moon, it should be one of the [if not the] brightest objects in the night sky,” he said.
While still about 367 million miles from Earth, Jupiter will be significantly closer than the 600 million miles away it gets at its farthest point.
Kobelski said that “with good binoculars,” the central band and three or four of Jupiter’s 80 moons should be visible.
Those with powerful telescopes, ideally at least 4 inches long, should also be able to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot — a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years.
Planet-watchers without the right technology can still see Jupiter in astonishing detail in a series of recent images, including infrared snaps taken by NASA’s own pioneering James Webb Space Telescope.
The space agency’s Juno spacecraft also recently captured a close-up image showing swirls of hurricane-like storms rising 30 miles high and stretching hundreds of miles across.
“With no solid surface to slow them down, the storms can last for years and have winds up to 335 miles per hour,” NASA noted of the planet that is mostly swirling gases and liquids.
Astro-photographer Andrew McCarthy recently posted what he said was his “sharpest Jupiter shot so far” after “spending all night shooting around 600,000 photos of it.”
He used an 11-inch telescope and “a camera I usually use for deep sky work” to shoot from his garden in Florence, Ariz.
Jupiter is the fifth planet from our sun and was named after the king of the ancient Roman gods because of its size.
With a radius of 43,440.7 miles, it is 11 times wider than Earth and more than twice as big as all the other planets in our solar system combined.
It has several rings, but — unlike the prominent rings of Saturn — Jupiter’s are made of dust, not ice, leaving them barely visible.
NASA’s scientists do not believe life as we know it could exist on Jupiter, with temperatures and pressures most likely too extreme and volatile for organisms to adapt to.
However, life has not been ruled out on some of its moons –with one, Europa, appearing to have a vast ocean just beneath its icy crust, where life could possibly be supported, the space agency said.
Europa was one of Jupiter’s four largest moons — along with Io, Ganymede and Callisto – that was first observed by the astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610 using an early version of the telescope.