Irish stargazers urged to watch Jupiter and moon tango

18 Apr 2016

Tonight (18 April), Irish stargazers are in for a treat as, for potentially at its closest approach during our lives, Jupiter will become the second-brightest object in the night sky, visible beside our own moon.

Despite being nearly 1,300-times larger than Earth, Jupiter is still a sight usually only seen through telescopes for the average stargazer, or through advanced satellite imagery if you’re lucky enough to work within one of the major space organisations.

For tonight, however, Irish stargazers, you will be able to see it appear as the second-brightest object in the night sky, right beside the brightest object – our moon.

Described by Astronomy Ireland and its chief, David Moore, as a once-in-a-lifetime event for many of us, the gas planet will appear at its largest at 11pm tonight, but will become gradually more visible in the hours prior to this climactic moment.

Astronomy Ireland HQ event

Jupiter stargazing

A simulated view of how Jupiter will appear beside the moon at 11pm. Image via Astronomy Ireland

After 10pm, in particular, is being tipped as the best time to catch a glimpse of the planet through a telescope, as you’ll just be able to spot the planet’s most famous landmark, the raging red eye which has been circling the planet for centuries at speeds of over 500km/h.

As always, Astronomy Ireland will be on hand at its HQ in Blanchardstown to offer some of the country’s most powerful telescopes to an interested public from 9pm tonight.

Fortunately, for those who might not be around tonight, it’s expected to be almost as visible tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, a few people on Twitter have jumped the gun to catch a glimpse of the planet before it reaches its peak visibility and, even at this stage, it’s a humbling sight.

Jupiter image via Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic