PORT ANGELES — If you see a shiny object in the night sky hovering just above the southeast horizon, don’t worry.
It’s just Jupiter.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call early Thursday morning from a Blue Mountain Road resident who was concerned about an unidentified flying object spotted on the horizon, said Undersheriff Ron Peregrin.
“We took a look at it through our binoculars,” he said, and determined that it was Jupiter, the largest plant in the solar system.
Peregrin said dispatchers received several more calls that morning from people mistaking Jupiter for a UFO, although he didn’t know how many.
Jupiter last week was the closest it has gotten to the Earth in decades, said John Gallagher, who heads Port Angeles High School’s astronomy club. It passed 368 million miles away, its closest pass since 1963.
Jupiter dominates the evening sky in October, appearing low in the southeast after sunset in the early part of the month, then higher and higher as the month progresses.
Look for the nearly full moon above Jupiter on the evening of Oct. 19.
“Last night was clear and beautiful, so lots of people were noticing it,” Gallagher said in an e-mail on Thursday.
“It will continue to be big, bright and beautiful this fall.”
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and by far the largest.
Jupiter is more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined (the mass of Jupiter is 318 times that of Earth).