Catch a 'full Jupiter' this week and spot its moons with just binoculars

Say hello to Io and its moon buddies.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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OK, so Jupiter won't be this close, but this week is the perfect time to gaze at it.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by Kevin M. Gill

Break out the binoculars, grab a small telescope or just look up. Jupiter, the solar system's scenically stormy gas giant, will be particularly bright and beautiful this week, making this a perfect time to look for its largest moons.

Jupiter reaches opposition on Tuesday morning, meaning the planet will be located opposite of the sun with Earth in between, like a cosmic sandwich. 

"Jupiter will be at its closest and brightest for this apparition, effectively a 'full Jupiter,' rising around sunset and setting around sunrise," said NASA in its July skywatching update.

With clear skies and a good set of binoculars or a small telescope, you can look for Jupiter's four biggest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. NASA recommends observing the moons over time by checking them nightly or waiting a few hours between viewing sessions to catch their orbital movements around the planet. This is the perfect week to try this out. 

While you're moon-gazing, take a moment to contemplate Europa in particular. NASA is planning its Europa Clipper mission to visit the fascinating moon, which may be our best bet for finding signs of alien life on another world in our solar system.

If you want an even closer look at Jupiter and its wild and swirly atmosphere, then be sure to check out images from NASA's ongoing Juno mission. Whether you're seeing a "dolphin" in the planet's clouds or viewing it from afar, Jupiter is a beauty.

Jaw-dropping Jupiter: NASA's Juno mission eyes the gas giant

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