The Great Red Spot (GRS) is the solar system’s largest known storm, an Earth-sized anticyclone that has raged in the atmosphere of Jupiter for at least two centuries. But recent observations from Earth and space suggest that this iconic Jovian feature is undergoing huge changes that could herald its demise.
Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, reaches opposition on 10 June in the constellation of Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer) and is visible low in the southern sky of the UK through the night. Observers with small to medium aperture telescopes can see a number of shadow transits of Jupiter’s Galilean moons and view the planet’s Great Red Spot throughout June.
Observers in the UK with clear skies around 1am BST on Tuesday, 21 May can see Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, just 4 degrees from the waning gibbous Moon low in the south-southeast. At this time both the Moon and Jupiter fit within the same field of view of binoculars magnifying less than 10×, while telescope users can also view Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
For lunar and planetary enthusiasts, the only naked-eye planet of the evening sky is distant and tiny Mars in the constellation of Taurus. But if you’re prepared to be an early riser, the dawn sky is where you’ll find two of the solar system’s heavyweights, Jupiter and Saturn, getting up close with the Moon on 27 and 29 March, respectively.
Skywatchers in the UK and Western Europe should look low to the south-southeast an hour before sunrise on 31 January to see a beautiful naked-eye conjunction of Venus, the old crescent Moon and Jupiter, all within a span of 8½ degrees. But if you have a telescope and live in just the right place, you can also see the Moon hide a double star.