Seeing Jupiter’s moons is very straightforward. All you need is a pair of binoculars (if you have a telescope, you will get to see larger views). When Jupiter is in the night sky and well above the horizon, it is a very bright night sky object - much brighter than the background stars. To prevent the wobble of the binoculars, if you do not have a tripod for support, try one of these methods:-

  • Rest the binoculars against the side of the house

  • Rest the binoculars on the back of a garden chair - or any other suitable object

The picture below shows Jupiter and its 4 largest moons (the Galilean moons that Galileo was the first to see in a telescope in the early 1600s) over a series of nights.

Picture credit : Stellarium

Picture credit : Stellarium

When you look one night you may see 2 moons on either side of the planet - next night 3 moons on one side and one on the other - another night you might see 2 moons on one side and 1 on the other side (where has the other moon gone? - in front or behind the planet). You see the moons in line with Jupiter’s equator as tiny star-like objects. There is no mistaking Jupiter because even in binoculars you can see that Jupiter appears as a disc - showing that it is a planet (a star is always only ever a dot).

Watching the moons change position around Jupiter is good to see - rather like a mini solar system.