Backyard Observatory

Jupiter Won't Be This Bright Again Until 2021. Here's How & When to See It.

Jupiter will reach opposition, shining brighter than any other night until 2021.

jupiter opposition july 2020
The Milky Way and Jupiter are seen on a clear summer night over a lavender field in Spain. | Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images
The Milky Way and Jupiter are seen on a clear summer night over a lavender field in Spain. | Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The night sky is a wonderland of delights tonight. Venus is shining bright, Comet NEOWISE has become visible in the evenings, Arcturus and Virgo are brilliant in the early part of the evening, and you might even catch a few meteors from the Delta Aquarid meteor shower that will peak later this month. However, the night of Monday, July 13, the star of the show is Jupiter. (OK, maybe it's still the first comet visible to the naked eye in almost a decade, but Jupiter is going to be great, too.)

Jupiter will reach opposition the night of July 13 into the morning of July 14. An opposition is the best time to see the outer planets. The sun, Earth, and the planet in opposition are lined up with the Earth in between the others. The sun will make the planet shine bright, and the planet will be at or near its closest approach to Earth until 2021. (Jupiter's closest point is technically July 15 at 4am EDT, per Starwalk.)

You'll be able to see our solar system's biggest planet throughout the night, with a rising time of 8:20pm EDT according to In the Sky's planet guide. Though that's just a few minutes before the sun sets, so you'll want to wait until the sun has gone down, and the sky is genuinely dark to appreciate just how bright Jupiter looks at opposition.

Jupiter will start the evening in the southeast near the constellation Sagittarius. It'll move westward, low in the sky. It should be easy to spot because Jupiter is brighter than any star and can only be outdone by Venus, the brightest object in our night sky this side of the moon. 

Additionally, Saturn, which is almost at opposition, will be looking great close to Jupiter. If you're out before midnight, you'll be seeing the two gas giants without any light interference from the moon, which will rise just before 1am. (These times will change some depending on your location.)

The weather and the events are aligning to make this an outstanding time be looking out into space. Even if you can't get out tonight, Jupiter and Saturn will remain bright for days and there's a whole lot to see out there beyond our own atmosphere.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.