Weather Blog: Are Jupiter's moons visible this month?

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(WRDW/WAGT) -- ​​If you've been outside a few hours after sunset the past few nights, you may have noticed a very bright object in the southeastern sky. It's Jupiter! Jupiter reached opposition Monday night, but don't worry if you didn't catch it. You haven't missed the best nights for viewing.

On June 10th the Sun, Earth, and Jupiter aligned for a once a year occurrence known as "opposition". Jupiter's opposition happens once every 13 months. During opposition, the Earth is evenly spaced exactly between Jupiter and the Sun. Due to the elliptical shape and orbit of planets, Jupiter will reach it's closest point to Earth on June 12th. On Wednesday and the following nights, Jupiter's largest moons will be visible with a 10x pair of binoculars. Jupiter has 79 moons, but only the biggest ones (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto​) are visible with binoculars. Jupiter's biggest moons can usually be seen year round with a pair of binoculars, but during opposition they are brighter and easier to see.

The forecast doesn't look good for viewing Wednesday. We are expecting mostly cloudy skies, which will prevent ideal viewing, but the forecast does improve Thursday and Friday nights with mostly clear skies in the forecast.

The best time to view the planet through June will be about two or three hours after sunset. All you have to do is look towards the southeast sky and it will be the brightest object you'll see, except for the moon.

Speaking of the moon, there is something else to marvel at in the June sky. Saturn, Jupiter, and the Moon will appear to be aligned in the southeast sky between the nights of June 14-19. The moon will not be perfectly in line with the planets since it's orbit is elliptical around the Earth, but it will follow a similar path and pass by the two planets as it rises in the night sky. Jupiter will appear about 14 times brighter than Saturn. The next Full Moon is Monday, June 17th, which will make for a stunning night sky as it passes Saturn and Jupiter in the southeast sky between 10 pm and midnight.

Here is a look at the rise times for Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon over the next few days. Look towards the southeast sky. Best viewing for planets is usually an hour or two after the rise time.

Wednesday, June 12th
Jupiter: 8:17 PM
Saturn: 10:23 PM
Moon: 3:59 PM

Thursday, June 13th
Jupiter: 8:12 PM
Saturn: 10:19 PM
Moon: 5:03 PM

Friday, June 14th
Jupiter: 8:08 PM
Saturn: 10:15 PM
Moon: 6:07 PM

Saturday, June 15th
Jupiter: 8:03 PM
Saturn: 10:11 PM
Moon: 7:09 PM

Sunday, June 16th
Jupiter: 7:59 PM
Saturn: 10:07 PM
Moon: 8:10 PM