Jupiter Will Be Bright & Beautiful Tonight. Here's How to See It

The solar system's biggest planet will be up all night and looking good.

Jupiter opposition august 2021
The Milky Way's Galactic Centre and Jupiter (brightest spot at center top) are seen in Uruguay in 2020. | Photo by MARIANA SUAREZ/AFP via Getty Images
The Milky Way's Galactic Centre and Jupiter (brightest spot at center top) are seen in Uruguay in 2020. | Photo by MARIANA SUAREZ/AFP via Getty Images

Jupiter and Saturn are shining brightly in the early evenings this month. If the weather is clear, it's pretty much always a good time to be looking for the gas giants after sunset. 

The night of Thursday, August 19, however, is a special night for the solar system's largest planet. Jupiter will reach opposition the night of August 19 into the morning of August 20, per Astronomy. It's at its brightest when it's at or near opposition, making this a prime night to see the luminous planet. 

Jupiter at opposition is easy to spot with the naked eye, even inside cities. It's pretty bright. But it's looking even better if you spot it through binoculars or a telescope. If you're using the latter, you might spot the Great Red Spot transiting across the planet's surface tonight. Astronomy notes that the massive storm will be in the middle of the planet from our perspective at 9:24 pm ET. 

About 25 minutes later, Io, one Jupiter's Galilean moons, will be visible crossing the planet, as will its shadow. They'll finish crossing at 12:08 am ET on August 20.

What is Opposition?

Oppositions take place when, from our perspective here on Earth, an object is opposite of the sun. As you might guess, when an object is at opposition, it rises at about sunset and sticks around until sunrise. Because it's at the opposite side of the sky, Jupiter will rise in the east as the sun sets in the west. 

What Else Can You See Tonight?

For the next few nights, you'll be able to spot Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon all stationed closely together. Though, they'll be at their closest the night of August 20. The trio will sit in the eastern sky, appearing as the sun dips below the horizon.

It's not the best night for stargazing since the moon will be full in just a couple of nights. At that brightness, it may obscure some stars. Still, it's a great night to go out and take a look since Jupiter and Saturn will be striking.

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, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.