On January 5, 2014, the Earth passed between the sun and Jupiter (opposition) and attained its closest approach to the Earth for 2014 (391 million miles), meaning the coming month will be the best time all year round to view ‘the giant planet’ through your binoculars or telescope.
Jupiter can be seen as a bold star-like object rising in the east at sunset and by midnight will appear highest in the sky, before being visible in the west before dawn.
In addition, this winter Jupiter is located in the constellation of Gemini, northeast of neighbouring Orion the Hunter, where it will even outshine the night sky’s brightest star, Sirius.
Even through a pair of 7×50 binoculars the four biggest of Jupiter’s 67 known moons; Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, each of which are larger than our own moon, can readily be seen. Each night you will also be able to watch these satellites constantly change their positions as they orbit around Jupiter.
Finally, using a medium-sized telescope, you will be able to see the planet’s equatorial cloud belts, or maybe even its most famous cloud feature known as the Great Red Spot.