See Jupiter at its brightest for 2020 tonight!

Jupiter reaches opposition on July 14, 2020.
Jupiter reaches opposition on July 14, 2020. (Image credit: Starry Night)

Jupiter will be at its biggest and brightest in the sky tonight (July 14) as the planet reaches opposition, the point in its orbit where it's almost directly opposite the sun in our sky and near its closest approach to Earth.

You can spot Jupiter with the naked eye in the constellation Sagittarius. One of the easiest ways to find the constellation is to use the Summer Triangle asterism. Draw an imaginary line from the star Deneb (in the constellation Cygnus, the swan) and through the star Altair (in Aquila, the eagle) to get to Sagittarius. 

Most people in North America will see Sagittarius close to the horizon, so try to move away from city lights and buildings for the best view. Give yourself at least 20 minutes to let your eyes get adjusted to the darkness, and use red filters to cover over any flashlights or light-emitting devices you bring along.

Related: When, where and how to see the planets in the 2020 night sky

Find Jupiter in the constellation Sagittarius, above the southeast horizon, from about an hour after sunset until dawn. This sky map shows where Jupiter will be located Tuesday (July 14) at 10 p.m. local time as seen from New York City. (Image credit: SkySafari app)

Jupiter will shine with a yellow hue in the sky just after sunset, lingering in the sky until dawn, at magnitude -2.7. (Magnitude is a measure of brightness, with negative numbers denoting the brightest objects.) The planet will appear a little brighter than the brightest star in Earth's sky, which is the wintertime Northern Hemisphere star Sirius

Jupiter will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time, moving away from the thick atmosphere of the horizon to let you glimpse the planet at its best.

If you have a pair of binoculars, you can check out the movement of Jupiter's moons, and a telescope will let you spot some of the bands in the atmosphere – as well as, perhaps, the shrinking Great Red Spot.

Related: The Galilean moons of Jupiter in photos

On July 14, 2020, Jupiter will reach opposition among the stars of eastern Sagittarius, rising at sunset and remaining visible all night long. At opposition, Jupiter will be located 384.8 million miles (619.2 million kilometers) from Earth, and it will shine at its maximum brightness of magnitude -2.75 for 2020. (Image credit: Starry Night)

If you're clouded out tonight or otherwise unable to see the show, there are plenty of opportunities to see Jupiter through the summer.

"Over the weeks following its opposition, Jupiter will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months," the skywatching site said in a statement.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: