Astrophotography :: Jupiter Nearing Opposition

The featured photo for this post, from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day page, was posted in recognition of Jupiter nearing opposition. The caption, from NASA, is as follows: 

On October 29 (UT), Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, will be at opposition, opposite the Sun in planet Earth’s sky, shining brightly and rising as the Sun sets. That configuration results in Jupiter’s almost annual closest approach to planet Earth, so near opposition the gas giant offers earthbound telescopes stunning views of its stormy, banded atmosphere and large Galilean moons. This sharp snapshot of Jupiter was captured on October 13 with the 1 meter telescope at the Pic Du Midi mountain top observatory in the French Pyrenees.

Jupiter lingering above Loveland Pass (astrophotography by Andrew Kowalyshyn, AKPHOTO)

This celestial event occurs (on Earth) when a planet is opposite the Sun as seen from our vantage point. This also means the planet is typically at its closest position to Earth. Combine this with the fact that the half of the object - in this case Jupiter - that faces Earth will be fully illuminated by the Sun, and you can plan for some great viewing opportunities (assuming the weather complies).

I have a real passion for astrophotography, and love any excuse to get into the mountains to photograph the night's sky above Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Last year I got lucky while shooting star trails atop Loveland Pass, as haz-mat trucks were making the long way around Eisenhower Tunnel. I did some shorter exposures to "freeze" the stars in the sky, and captured a trucker ascending the pass as Jupiter hung in the sky overhead (see the photo at right). In the distance, you can see groomers working the trails at Arapahoe Basin ski area. This was taken in October of last year - about a month after Jupiter had reached opposition. Jupiter reaches opposition every 1.1 years.

I will certainly be out there on the 29th getting some shots of our planetary cousin - assuming the weather works to my advantage.