You really can’t miss its blazingly bright yellow-white orb once it clears the tree line. Jupiter is just under a month away from being opposite the sun in the sky when it is also closest to Earth.
This means the next few weeks are the best time this year to study the planet. The beautiful cloud belts and constantly changing patterns of its four major moons make Jupiter well worth viewing with a telescope.
Jupiter is slowly moving through the constellation Pisces, the fishes.
Interestingly, it is not the only planet in this part of the sky. Neptune is just 12deg away in the neighboring constellation of Aquarius, the water bearer. Jupiter is easy to see with the naked eye. However, you will need a pair of binoculars to spot the dim but distinctively blue-colored Neptune, the outermost planet in the solar system.
While Jupiter takes just under 12 years to complete one orbit of the sun, it takes Neptune nearly 165 years. Put another way, the last time Neptune was in this part of the sky was in 1857 when Queen Victoria was on the throne!
If two planets aren’t enough to satisfy your celestial cravings I have something else to show you. There’s another fascinating object which is well worth hunting down.
I am talking about the remarkable variable star TX Piscium. This star’s claim to fame is that it is the reddest celestial object that can be seen with the unaided eye.
This vermillion beauty is 900 light years away. It can be found by looking just below the distinct pentagon of stars comprising the southernmost part of Pisces.
TX Piscium is red because, by celestial standards, it is very cool. At just over 3000 degC, its surface temperature is roughly half that of the sun. This red giant star is so big, that if you put it in our solar system, Earth’s orbit would actually be inside it.