Keep your eyes on the skies tonight.
According to Space.com, in the latest celestial encounter of the largest planet in the solar system and Earth’s natural satellite, the moon will appear to sail past Jupiter this evening.
Since November, the moon and Jupiter have been engaging in a series of conjunctions. Just before Thanksgiving, the full moon appeared to be snuggled up close to Jupiter and the same thing happened on Christmas night. More recently, on Jan 21, the moon looked as if it skimmed just below Jupiter. That was the closest pairing of the two planets to happen in recent memory. Until tonight that is.
The moon made its closest approach to Jupiter around this morning 7 a.m. EST. Unfortunately, the moon and Jupiter were below the horizon for North America which made seeing the approach quite difficult, if not impossible. That means the best thing that observers can do if they want to see the two planets engage in their interstellar dance is watch the night sky tonight. This evening, the moon will be receding from Jupiter.
By tonight, the moon will be in a somewhat more noticeable gibbous phase, and will have moved to a point about 6 degrees to the left (east) of Jupiter. Still the brightest star in the night sky, Jupiter will first come out at dusk, high in the south. It will also be accompanied by two naked-eye star clusters (the Pleiades and Hyades) and an entourage of other bright stars. Although Jupiter is receding and fading, it still remains brilliant.
After all the solar happenings we had last week - the meteor crash in Russia and the asteroid streaking by Earth at record-setting close distance - you may have thought all the action in the solar system was done for a least a little while. Obviously that is not the case.