All hail the king of the planets, newly arrived in the evening sky.
Jupiter is currently rising in the night sky around midnight on the eastern horizon, dominating at an impressive -2.5 magnitude. (Naked-eye stars are visible at as little as magnitude 6; the lower the magnitude the brighter the object.) As the night grows old, the planet will move up within your field of view and away from the muddying horizon, according to geophysicist Chris Vaughan, an amateur astronomer with SkySafari Software who oversees Space.com’s Night Sky calendar.
Stick around until dawn, when the largest planet of our solar system will be at its highest and clearest. Or better yet, wait until Tuesday (July 19) morning to see the planet in a conjunction (close approach) with the moon, just three degrees to the celestial southeast.
It has been a stunning past month for Jupiter, which is not only bright and big in the sky, but also because it lined up with four other naked-eye worlds in the pre-dawn sky in June. This rare five-planet conjunction even had each world in its appropriate order from the sun.
All of these alignments, by the way, took place because the sun, moon and planets are all aligned on a plane in the sky known as the ecliptic. That’s the relatively flat orbital plane on which the solar system is centered. In reality, each world is millions of miles (or kilometers) apart.
Jupiter hosts four moons that are visible in telescopes and very steady, large binoculars. Telescopes may also be able to pick out the bands of weather that the NASA Juno spacecraft is trying to figure out from up close.
Looking for a telescope or binoculars to observe Jupiter, the moon or planets? Our guides for the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals now can help. Our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can also help you prepare to capture the next skywatching sight on your own.