Jupiter and four of its brightest moons will be visible to backyard astronomers with only a pair of binoculars throughout the month of June, CNN reports. This is a rare treat as, most times, only people willing to spend the money on high-quality telescopes are able to view the celestial bodies.
Jupiter is almost always visible to the naked eye, appearing as a bright spot in the sky, but unlike stars, it doesn’t twinkle. However, using a telescope affords the backyard astronomer a greater look at some of the planet’s secrets, including its bands of clouds, its Great Red Spot, and its moons, of which there are a 79 known. However, even the best backyard telescope only offers a glimpse at a small handful of them, with those being the biggest and brightest.
However, June 2019 promises to be a great month for space enthusiasts, even for those who don’t have money to spend on good telescopes. That’s because, as NASA explains on its website, Jupiter will be at what’s known as “opposition.” That is, the sun, Earth, and Jupiter all form what is essentially a straight line across space, giving viewers on Earth the chance to view Jupiter as it receives the most sunlight relative to our own position in the solar system.
What that means is that you won’t need a telescope to see Jupiter’s bands or its four biggest and brightest moons, which are Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa – all discovered by Galileo.
Instead, you’ll be able to see Jupiter and all of its glory, as well as those four moons, with an ordinary pair of binoculars.
People in the Southern Hemisphere will have the best opportunity to see the celestial sight, but people in the Northern Hemisphere will get the opportunity as well. The best days for viewing will be between June 14 and 19, but the entire month of June will provide optimum viewing of the planet and moons.
As is always the case with space-watching, if you live in an urban area or are otherwise bedeviled by light pollution, it’s best that you try to find a spot in an unpopulated area, away from lights. Then, look toward the southern horizon. You’ll be hard-pressed to miss it, says Dr. Robert Massey, deputy executive director at Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society.
Of course, if you have a telescope, that is even better. But even if all you’ve got is a pair of binoculars, Massey says you shouldn’t pass up the chance. In fact, do it every night over the course of a few nights and watch the moons change position relative to Jupiter. It was the rotation of those moons around their planet that led Galileo to re-think the notion that the Earth was the center of the solar system.