The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, reaches maximum brightness the night of October 28. On that date, the planet lies opposite the Sun from Earth in our sky — this is called opposition. Jupiter will rise at sunset, appear highest around local midnight, and set as the Sun rises.
The king of planets will glow at magnitude −2.9, far brighter than any other point of light in the sky. The gas giant currently lies in Aries the Ram and is about 100 times more brilliant than the brightest star in that constellation. “Look for Jupiter in the east at sunset,” says Senior Editor Richard Talcott. “It will climb higher in the southeastern sky as the night wears on.”
You can observe Jupiter’s disk through any size telescope, which makes the planet a great target for beginners. You’ll be able to spot its dark equatorial cloud belts and even its four major moons, which align with Jupiter’s equator. The planet’s South Equatorial Belt returned in November 2010 after it mysteriously faded away for about six months.
At opposition, the planet’s disk will span 49.7" across its equator but 46.5" through the poles. This difference is because the planet is gaseous and spins rapidly, thus squashing its shape.