Jupiter is in opposition tonight, the closest to earth

Jupiter will appear bigger and brighter than usual, shining down as one of the most prominent planets in the sky tonight.

The phenomenon will take place tonight across the world and will be available to spot after sunset.

What could resemble a bright star in the sky, will actually be Jupiter shining bright as it’s in opposition to Earth.

Jupiter will be as close as it ever gets to Earth, providing a clear view of the gigantic planet.

This occurrence happens every 13 months during Jupiter's orbit.

A planet is only in opposition for a very short period of time, during this time it can be visible to the naked eye without a telescope needed.

Explaining what opposition means, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Bryony Lanigan told the PA news agency “When a planet is at opposition, it is on the opposite side of the Earth to the Sun – if you were looking down on the Solar System from above and drew a line from Jupiter to the Sun, when Jupiter is at opposition it would pass through the Earth.

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“This doesn’t necessarily mean that the planet is at its closest point to the Earth – because of the elliptical nature of planetary orbits, this may occur a day or two either side.”

Bryony explains how Jupiter will be visible tonight “Jupiter should be visible low above the south-eastern horizon from sunset on the days around opposition on the 19th, but if planet-hunters wait until a few hours after sunset then it will have risen a little higher – around 20-25 degrees altitude – and so will be easier to spot.”

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Adding “While the sky will not be fully dark, the Moon will not be intruding too much on astrophotographers’ views.”

Jupiter’s opposition takes place tonight, just two days before the Blue Moon is due to take place over the weekend.

Alongside the sighting of Jupiter, Saturn could also make an appearance, allowing you to catch a glimpse of the second-largest planet in the solar system.

Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer, Ed Bloomer told PA “Both planets are fairly low on the horizon, so try and find an observation spot free from tall buildings or trees when looking in that direction.

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“And another bonus is that the waxing moon is – relative to the planets – sweeping eastwards over those few days.

“There’s a chance you could get a good photograph featuring stars, planets and the Moon.”

Ed explains the best chance of seeing Jupiter and Saturn’s rings is to look through a telescope.

It is best to make sure you’re in an area with a clear view – a hill or empty fields are the best options.

Ed also added “The Galilean moons (Jupiter‘s four largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) will look like pinpricks of light in orbit around Jupiter.

“Around Saturn you may be able to make out the rings, and even major divisions within the rings.

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“If your telescope is really good, perhaps you’ll even make out the swirling clouds of Jupiter‘s upper atmosphere.”

With a night of bright planets and a rare Blue Moon over the weekend, there’s a lot to look out for in the sky this week.

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