Mighty Jupiter, the king of the planets, comes to opposition at 08:00 UT on 14 July, the moment when it lies opposite the Sun in sky at a distance of 619.4 million kilometres (384 million miles), or 4.139 astronomical units. This is the most favourable time to observe the so-called ‘superior planets’ (those apart from Mercury and Venus, which are termed ‘inferior planets’).
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is well on show in this image taken on 5 July 2020. Image: Christopher Go.
Jupiter, by far the Solar System’s dominant planet and the one that offers the most to observers of all levels or experience, is at its 2020 best on the nights of 13/14 and 14/15 July, when it’s a brilliant magnitude –2.8 beacon rather low in the southern sky among the stars of Sagittarius as soon as what passes for darkness as this time of the year descends. The presence of Saturn, the gorgeous ringed planet which comes to opposition itself on 20 July, lying just six to seven degrees to the east of Jupiter, adds greatly to the spectacle.
As Jupiter doesn’t achieve an altitude of 20 degrees at any time from our shores, observers living in towns ...