Jupiter’s Star Turn: The Gas Giant Is at Its Biggest and Brightest Right Now

Star light, star bright, the shiniest star you’ll see tonight won’t even be a star.

It’s Jupiter.

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Rising in the east, the giant planet is currently about as close as it ever gets to Earth, coming into what’s known as “opposition.” That’s when a planet is on the same side of the solar system as Earth and directly opposite the sun.

Jupiter is always bright — only Venus and the moon are brighter to human eyes at night — but tends to look its biggest and brightest during opposition.

According to NASA, opposition has a precise moment when the sun, Earth and Jupiter line up: that’ll occur at 7 p.m. Thursday. There’s no need to set an alarm, though. Jupiter is already blazingly visible from sunset to sunrise — assuming cloud cover cooperates — even in urban areas.

In a case of “stars” aligning, Venus is hanging out too, and it’s possible to catch both brilliant planets simultaneously.

Here’s how: First, you’ll need an unobstructed horizon to the east and west. Then, as dusk turns to evening, Venus will appear low on the western horizon as it descends, while Jupiter will sit low in the east as it rises. (Picture opposite ends of a teeter-totter.) 

No special equipment is needed to view the show, but for those who would like to see more than points of light, upcoming astronomy events in Chicago parks offer an opportunity for a closer look.

Joe Guzman, aka the Chicago Astronomer, will set up his telescope around the city Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He’ll hold Q&A sessions from 7-8 p.m., followed by telescope viewing from 8-9:30 p.m.

Locations include:

— Thursday: Northerly Island, 1521 S. Lynn White Drive

— Friday: 606 Bloomingdale Trail, 1805 N. Ridgeway Ave.

— Saturday: Harrison Park, 18th Street and Damen Avenue

The events are free and open to all ages. Masks are required. 

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors