Well, so this didn’t take long for me to break from writing good, useful SQL posts to drop into general geekery.
Long story short, the Earth is as close as we will be to Jupiter until 2022. This makes it very bright in the night sky. If you go outside and look tonight (which you should), you will see a bright thing in the sky to the Southeast of the Moon. That’s Jupiter.
So, that’s fairly cool. But there’s more!
Get some binoculars and look again. Depending on how good your eyes are and how powerful your binocs are, you will see three or four of Jupiter’s four big “Galilean” moons. They’re running in a plane from lower left to upper right. Won’t be able to see any rings without a telescope, but the moons are pretty cool. At midnight it should be more-or-less overhead, which is when everything will be the brightest & easiest to see.
The pic I took here was with Tammy’s Pentax K10D on a tripod with the crappy 200mm telephoto that we have. I wasn’t even going to do this until @CanSpice said that he had good results, so out I went. Focus ring doesn’t go far enough over to make this really sharp, so between that and, you know, the whole “we’re moving” part, this is as good as I can get with the equipment we have.
Spaceweather.com has some ridiculous pictures posted from other people who have real equipment, along with some more info.
Uranus (heh*) is also in the vicinity (only one degree off), but I wasn’t able to find it–not enough power. All of us (Sun, Earth, Jupiter, Uranus) are all lined up in a row, which is why everything is so close together.
I would expect that there will be another few nights when Jupiter is really visible, so if you don’t see this tonight, all hope is not completely lost.
* I’m sorry, I still, and probably will always, snicker at this