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Jupiter so close to Earth right now you can see its moons with binoculars

NASA urges space fans to check out the bright gas giant and its moons as the planet cuddles up to Earth.

jupitermarble

Jupiter stands out in this marble-like portrait from NASA, processed by Kevin Gill.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Go outside at night. Look for a bright spot that outshines most stars. That's Jupiter. The massive gas giant planet is showing off for us Earthlings this month.

Jupiter will reach opposition on Monday, June 10, in an annual event that marks the time when Earth is directly between the gas giant and the sun. This means Jupiter is fairly close to Earth and you can spot it lurking in the sky all night long. This entire month offers up great viewing opportunities.

"The solar system's largest planet is a brilliant jewel to the naked eye, but looks fantastic through binoculars or a small telescope, which will allow you to spot the four largest moons, and maybe even glimpse a hint of the banded clouds that encircle the planet," NASA suggests in a skywatching update for June.

While Jupiter is in a prime position right now, skygazers are often able to see its biggest moons with binoculars at other times of the year, too. It's helpful if you're in an area with low light pollution. 

Opposition just happens to be a perfect excuse to go out and try some moon-spotting for yourself. And be sure to wave at Mr. Hankey if you see him.

Originally published June 6.