Stargazing Side Quest Week 52 – Jupiter

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

This week we will be looking for the biggest planet in the solar system – Jupiter!

Our first ever Stargazing Side Quest back in January 2022 was Jupiter – were you here for that? At that time we actually went out right after sunset to view Jupiter. Back then, Jupiter was much closer to the Sun in our sky. For week 2, the Sun was at 07° Aquarius in the tropical zodiac (along the ecliptic) while Jupiter was about 30° away at 06° Pisces. Today, the Sun is at 21° Capricorn, and Jupiter is all the way through Pisces and into Aries – now more than double the distance it was last year. This means we can now see Jupiter later in the night at our usual 10PM local time instead of right after sunset.

To find Jupiter tonight, go outside and look west. A bit above the western horizon you’ll see a brightly glowing, but not twinkling, star-like object. That’s Jupiter! If you stay out for about 30 minutes to an hour, you’ll actually be able to watch Jupiter slowly set below the western horizon. If you have clear skies and a pair of binoculars you can probably find Jupiter’s four biggest natural satellites (moons): Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto too!

You’ll notice that Jupiter is still within the constellation Pisces, which is different from it’s position in the tropical zodiac, Aries. That’s because the tropical zodiac splits the ecliptic (Earth’s orbit around the Sun/the path the Sun takes through the sky) into twelve equal 30° segments while the constellations are all different sizes. Constellation boundaries and ecliptic coordinates are just two different ways of describing a celestial body’s position in the sky.

Let us know if you find Jupiter tonight! Be sure to tag @stargazingsidequest and on Instagram with your planet pics so we can boost and celebrate your stargazing achievement for this week!

P.S.! I will also be guest hosting on the livestream tonight for the first time! I hope to see you all there and I’m excited to see your sky pics too!

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