The two brightest planets in the solar system are coming into view for the upcoming months. Jupiter starts the show off with its arrival in the east in October not long after Sunset. The largest of the gas giant planets will rise a bit earlier each night in the constellation Aries until it reaches opposition on October 28, rising as the Sun sets and gliding with the stars from one end of the sky to the other until Sunrise. Jupiter will shine at its maximum possible brightness of magnitude -2.9, easily more brilliant than any surrounding stars, including the twinkling Capella to the planet?s north.
Turning even a small telescope on Jupiter will reveal the largest members of the great satellite system that circles the planet. The four largest moons, called the Galilean satellites, are easily spotted as small points of light that lie in a plane close to the planet. The positions of the satellites change from night to night, and sometimes the moons are hidden in front of or behind Jupiter. Lucky observers might even get to see the shadow of a moon darken the light cloud tops of the planet. A close look at the clouds of Jupiter should also unveil darker stripes across the atmosphere called belts.