Astronomy Essentials

Jupiter coming to June’s morning sky, opposition in December

Jupiter in 2024: Starting in June 2024, you may notice Jupiter in the morning twilight. It’s the very bright object ascending in the east earlier each morning. Indeed, it’s brighter than all the stars!
Jupiter will reach opposition at 21 UTC (4 p.m. CDT) on December 7, 2024. That’s when Jupiter will be most opposite the sun in our sky. At midnight your local time as seen from around the globe, Jupiter will be shining at its highest in the sky, more or less where the sun was at your local noon. At that time, the sun will be below your feet. It’ll all happen as Earth flies between the sun and Jupiter.
Jupiter will be closest to Earth at 10 UTC (5 a.m. CDT) on December 6, 2024. At that time, its distance will be 380 million miles/ 611 million km/ 34 light-minutes from Earth.
Opposition constellation: Taurus the Bull.
Brightness at opposition: Magnitude -2.8. Jupiter will shine as the 4th-brightest object in the sky, after the sun, the moon and the planet Venus. It’ll be the brightest starlike object visible for most of the night (after Venus sets in the evening sky).
Size at opposition (as seen through a telescope): 48.2 arcseconds across.
Through binoculars (anytime): Jupiter reveals a bright disk. If you look closely, you’ll see several of its four Galilean moons appearing as pinpoints of light, arrayed in a line that bisects the giant planet.

Read: Why is Jupiter closest to Earth 1 day before opposition?

Jupiter finder chart for June and July 2024

Jupiter, Pleiades and Mars in June.
In June, Jupiter will lie low in the east-northeast shortly before sunrise all month. It will be easier to spot as the month goes on. Jupiter will be brighter than Mars, which lies to its far upper right. Also, the delicate Pleiades star cluster can be found just above Jupiter. Chart via EarthSky.
Star chart showing 2 crescent moons, Jupiter, Mars and the Head of Taurus the Bull.
In the early morning hours of July 30 and 31, the crescent moon joins Mars, Jupiter, the Pleiades, Aldebaran and the Hyades for a dramatic scene. Chart by John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Finder charts for August 2024

From mid-July through mid-August, red Mars will slowly approach bright Jupiter in Taurus the Bull. Then, on the morning of August 14, Mars will be less than the width of a full moon from Jupiter.

Star chart showing a red dot for Mars very close to a larger white dot for Jupiter and the V-shape of the head of Taurus the Bull nearby.
Red Mars narrowly misses bright Jupiter in the early morning hours of August 14. Look in the east for this planetary conjunction. Chart by John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.
A circle showing a binocular view of Jupiter with Mars shown as red dots moving past Jupiter.
Binoculars will help you see Mars pass bright Jupiter from August 10 through August 18. They’ll be at their closest to each other in the early morning hours of August 14. Chart by John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.
Chart showing a green arcing line along a wide horizon showing the planets Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Saturn and the moon with labels.
We can always find the planets lying along the ecliptic, which is the plane of our solar system. But often, some of the planets are in the morning sky, while others are in the evening sky, and still others are too close to the sun to see at all. On late August mornings, all the planets but Venus appear in the morning sky. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be easy. Can you challenge yourself to spot the rest? Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

How often does Jupiter reach opposition?

Jupiter takes 12 earthly years to orbit the sun once. So, Jupiter comes to opposition roughly every 13 months. By the same token, that’s how long Earth takes to travel once around the sun relative to Jupiter. Therefore, according to our earthly calendars Jupiter’s opposition comes about a month later each year. Also, add to that the fact that there are 12 constellations of the zodiac. And there are 12 months in a year. So Jupiter is actually in a new zodiacal constellation at each year’s opposition (last year, Aries; this year, Taurus).

2023 Jupiter opposition – November 3
2024 Jupiter opposition – December 7
2026 Jupiter opposition – January 10
2027 Jupiter opposition – February 10

Jupiter events in 2024

January 1, 2024: Jupiter was at perihelion or closest point to the sun for 2024.
May 18, 2024: Jupiter was at solar conjunction, or behind the sun as seen from Earth.
October 9, 2024: Jupiter begins retrograde motion, that is, westward motion on the sky’s dome, a sign that opposition is just ahead.
December 6, 2024: Jupiter at perigee, or closest to Earth for 2024.
December 7, 2024: Jupiter at opposition, or opposite the sun as seen from Earth.
February 4, 2025: Jupiter will end retrograde motion, a sign that the best time to observe Jupiter is ending. However, the planet will remain somewhere in the night sky through April 2025. Then it’ll emerge in the morning sky in July 2025.

Two photos of Jupiter side by side with one of them considerably larger, with labels.
A comparison of the apparent size of Jupiter at opposition (December 7, 2024) and when it is most distant from the Earth at solar conjunction (May 18, 2024). Image via Dominic Ford’s In-the-Sky.org. Used with permission.

View from above the solar system, December 2024

Circle with sun at center, planets around, and zodiac names on outer edge.
Heliocentric view of solar system, December 2024. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

A failed star

Perhaps you know that Jupiter isn’t a rocky planet like Earth. In fact, it’s more like a failed star, not massive enough or hot enough inside to spark thermonuclear fusion reactions, but some 2 1/2 times more massive than all the other planets in our solar system combined. Jupiter is big! But, without that thermonuclear reaction it can’t shine as stars do.

Overall, you’d need some 80 Jupiters – rolled into a ball – to be hot enough inside to spark fusion. So, Jupiter isn’t a star. That is, it doesn’t shine with its own light, but instead by reflected sunlight.

Yet in late November 2024 – as bright Jupiter rises in the east more or less opposite the sunset – you can stand on Earth all night and peer toward bright Jupiter in our sky. And indeed, you can imagine that, if the giant planet did have enough mass to shine as stars do, then around Jupiter’s opposition, we’d have no night at all. Instead, Jupiter would shine as a 2nd sun, all night long.

Read more: How to see Jupiter’s moons

Animation showing Earth moving around and around the sun faster than Jupiter.
Jupiter (red) completes one orbit of the sun (center) for every 11.86 orbits of the Earth (blue), since our orbit is smaller, and we move faster! Animation via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

For precise sun and Jupiter rising times at your location:

Old Farmer’s Almanac (U.S. and Canada)

timeanddate.com (worldwide)

Stellarium (online planetarium program)

In-the-sky information and finder chart for your location

Simple diagram of orbits, showing Earth between an outer planet and the sun.
Opposition happens when Earth flies between an outer planet, like Jupiter, and the sun. Illustration via Chris Peat/ Heavens-Above. Used with permission.
Jupiter with colorful, swirly banded atmosphere, spotted with oval storms. Titles and scale of size.
Jupiter and its stormy atmosphere as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope on September 4, 2021. Image via Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)/ Michael H. Wong (UC Berkeley)/ Hubblesite.

EarthSky Community Photos

Tan, banded Jupiter rotating, with the big oval red spot crossing it, and two bright dots for moons nearby.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steven Bellavia in Surry, Virginia, created this animation of Jupiter from images captured in the wee hours of October 19, 2023. It’s a beauty! Thank you, Steve. And, if you look closely, you can see Jupiter’s moons Europa and Io, in the upper left and right, respectively. Wow! Read: How to see and enjoy Jupiter’s moons.
Slightly fuzzy large banded planet with small white dot nearby.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Aurelian Neacsu of Visina, Dambovita, Romania, captured this image of Jupiter on August 22, 2023, and wrote: “The bright dot visible on the right bottom corner is not a planet’s satellite; it’s the star Sigma Arietis.” Thank you, Aurelian.

Got a picture of Jupiter? We’d love to see it. Submit them here.

Bottom line: Giant Jupiter is closest to Earth for 2024 on December 6. Then Earth will fly between the sun and Jupiter – bringing Jupiter to opposition – on December 7.

Read more: Jupiter: Closest to the Earth December 6, 2024

Read more: Jupiter’s moons: How to see and enjoy them

Posted 
June 9, 2024
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

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