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Jupiter makes a comeback

There has been a dearth of easily observable planets in the night sky over the last few months but observers will be pleased to know that Jupiter is about to come to the rescue. After opposition at a respectable declination of +7 degrees on March 8 it was at conjunction on September 26 and is now heading our way again in the early morning sky.

On October 20 it rises at 04:47 UTC from London and by the end of the month is above the horizon by 04:15. Jupiter is always an enjoyable object to observe, particularly when it has been absent for a while, and these observations are made even more enjoyable – particularly for photographers - when the giant planet lines up with other astronomical bodies. And on October 28 Jupiter and an old crescent Moon (2 days from new) come within 2 degrees of each other.

Also getting in on the act on this morning, and fitting within the 2 degree window, is gamma Virginis (Porrima), the whole making a lovely binocular composition and imaging opportunity.

Make the most of Jupiter as it heads towards its next opposition on April 7 next year as it is rapidly heading south. Those who remember it transiting at an altitude of 60 plus degrees in the late 1980s will have to get used to it appearing only 16 degrees above the horizon by 2020.  At opposition next April it will be around 32 degrees up from London, compared to 44 degrees in 2016.