Moon and Jupiter

StarDate: July 2, 2010

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Two of the three brightest objects in the night sky put on a pretty display late tonight. The Moon and the planet Jupiter rise after midnight, and stand high in the sky at first light. Jupiter's to the lower left of the Moon, and looks like a brilliant star. In fact, other than the Moon, only one other nighttime object outshines Jupiter: the planet Venus, which right now reigns as the "evening star."

The pairing of the Moon and Jupiter is a treat for skywatchers just about anywhere. If you live in the country, under dark skies, the Moon is so bright that it almost hurts your eyes.

The pair is prominent even from cities and towns, where the night sky is filled with the glare of streetlamps and porch lights. The Moon and Jupiter shine through the glare, but they can look kind of lonely -- few of the true stars around them can cut through the glare.

That's especially true for the region of sky where the Moon and Jupiter are now -- there aren't many bright stars nearby. The closest one is Fomalhaut, which is low to their lower right before dawn. The Great Square of Pegasus is to their upper left. It's tough to spot just through the glare of the Moon, but when you add in the glare of the city, it's nigh on impossible.

You can help reclaim the night sky by turning off the outdoor lights you don't need, and making sure that the ones you do need are casting their light down on you, and not into the starry sky.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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