Stargazers can get a great look at Jupiter on any clear night for the rest of September. The giant planet, always bright, will be especially hard to miss as it approaches closer to Earth than it will at any time until 2022.
In North America this month, Jupiter will be low in the east shortly after twilight, moving higher up toward the southeast as the evening grows late, according to NASA and Sky and Telescope magazine.
Jupiter will be nearest to Earth on the night of Monday, Sept. 20, when it passes 368 million miles (594 million km) away. For comparison, the sun is about 93 million miles (150 million km) from us. But viewers shouldn't despair if they miss the show on the 20th: Jupiter will be nearly as close and bright all month.
Earth orbits the sun in about 365 days. But Jupiter, farther out there, takes 4,332 Earth-days to make the same trip. Therefore, Earth laps Jupiter periodically, on the inside track. As that pass occurs, the two worlds come much closer than when they are on opposite sides of the sun. Because the planets' orbits are not perfect circles, some passes are tighter than others.
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