Where in Shropshire to see Jupiter tonight as largest planet in the Solar System comes 'close'

Stargazers will brave the cold and step out in Shropshire tonight for a rare chance to see the planet Jupiter up close - relatively speaking.

Voyager 1 captured this close-up image of swirling clouds around Jupiter's Great Red Spot in 1979. Photo: NASA/JPL.
Voyager 1 captured this close-up image of swirling clouds around Jupiter's Great Red Spot in 1979. Photo: NASA/JPL.

Our solar system's biggest planet will come within 367 million miles of Earth, its closest point in nearly sixty years, today, giving amateur astronomers a great opportunity to see the gas giant if skies are clear.

At its furthest, Jupiter is almost twice as far from our planet.

Jupiter is 'in opposition' today, meaning that it finds itself placed on one side of the Earth with the Sun on the opposite. Looking from the Earth, when the sun sets in the west, Jupiter will rise in the east, directly opposite.

With its many high peaks and swathes of rural land not troubled by light pollution, Shropshire has several spots that are ideal for stargazing and have been awarded Dark Sky Discovery status by the UK Dark Sky Discovery partnership for their views, access and size.

Five sites have been handed the status - here are some of the top candidates if you want to go Jupiter-spotting this week.

The Shropshire Hills

There are no fewer than four Dark Sky sites in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in south Shropshire and all are at National Trust car parks around the Long Mynd.

All four Shropshire Hills sites have the darkest Milky Way Class rating, meaning that the skies are dark enough to see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

Visit Shropshire Hills says: "From the Dark Sky Discovery sites on the Long Mynd, views of the Milky Way are fabulous. You don’t need special equipment to enjoy the night sky, as you can see so much with the naked eye – although binoculars and telescopes bring new dimensions to the experience.

"You can catch magical photos too, but you will need a tripod."

Go Stargazing advised that the best time for watching the skies tonight will be between 7.15pm and 5am.

Carding Mill Valley

A popular and busy National Trust-owned open space with free car parking between sunset and 9am, with easy access to the Long Mynd. Well-signposted access via road or path from the nearby town of Church Stretton.

Contact 01694 725000 or cardingmill@nationaltrust.org.uk for more information.

To find the car park on the What 3 Words app, use "magical.elaborate.regress".

The Carding Mill Valley car park. Photo: Google

Cross Dyke car park

A free National Trust car park, with no toilets or lights. Accessed off the Bur Way west of Church Stretton.

To find the car park on the What 3 Words app, use "recapture.starring.strictest".

The Cross Dyke car park. Photo: Google

Pole Cottage car park

A free National Trust free car park with good horizons and no city lights. Accessed by The Portway road.

Contact 01694 725000 or cardingmill@nationaltrust.org.uk for more information.

To find the car park on the What 3 Words app, use "cards.weary.crossword".

The Pole Cottage car park. Photo: Google

Shooting Box car park

A National Trust-owned car park with no toilets or lights. Accessed by road.

To find the car park on the What 3 Words app, use "dabble.briskly.clicker".

The Shooting Box car park. Photo: Google

The Wrekin

The Wrekin and its surrounds just outside Wellington are a designated Dark Sky Discovery site, and access is good from the Forest Glen car park at the hill's base.

The walk to the hill's peak is popular and paved throughout, though it is steep in places.

But the rewards include good stargazing views on a clear night.

To find the car park on the What 3 Words app, use "openings.spud.venturing".

The Forest Glen car park at the foot of the Wrekin. Photo: Google

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