Stargazers look up: Jupiter makes closest approach to Earth

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Jupiter is extra close and extra bright this week, and that means some wonderful, new close-ups.

NASA scientist Dr. Michelle Thaller said Jupiter over the next few nights Jupiter will be making its closest approach to the Earth in the nxt 13 months. The planet will "only" be 416 million miles away, closer than any other time of the year. It will shine especially brightly Friday night and early Saturday morning, when it makes its absolute closest approach.

Famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is certainly excited about it! However, the Great Red Spot is slowly shrinking-a trend seen since the late 1800s.

"We move slowly enough through space where you'll be able to see it for awhile", Smith said, though he added Jupiter will likely be at its very brightest in the near future.

This April 3, 2016 image made available by NASA shows the planet Jupiter when it was at a distance of about 668 million kilometers (415 million miles) from Earth.

Clearly visible in the photo are Jupiter's famous atmospheric bands, created by different-colored clouds.

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Lastly, on Monday evening (April 10), Earth's moon - just hours from turning full and itself opposite to the sun's place in the sky - will be positioned only a couple of degrees to the lower left of Jupiter as the two objects rise in the east-southeast when darkness falls.

Hubble observed Jupiter using its Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), which allows observations in UV, IR and visible light.

The surface of Jupiter is divided into several distinct, colorful bands, running parallel to the equator.

Jupiter comes to opposition once per year, when the faster-moving Earth gains a lap on the sluggish giant and passes between Jupiter and the sun.

Jupiter is best known for the Great Red Spot, an anticyclone that has raged for at least 150 years. The reason for this is still unknown. Image credit: NASA / ESA / A. Simon, Goddard Space Flight Center. So Hubble will continue to observe Jupiter in the hope that scientists will solve this stormy riddle.

The images are part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program (OPAL), which offers annual global views of outer planets to determine changes in their storms, clouds, and winds. In 2018, the Hubble will turn its focus to Saturn.

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