More Moon and Jupiter

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More Moon and Jupiter

The Moon and the planet Jupiter stage a beautiful encounter tonight. They climb into view about 9 or 9:30. Jupiter looks like a brilliant star quite close to the Moon, which is just past full. They’ll move slightly farther apart by dawn, with Jupiter below the Moon.

Jupiter and the Moon are both passing through Aries, the ram. The Moon will complete that transit in a hurry. Tomorrow night, it’ll appear in Taurus, the next constellation over. And a few nights after that, it’ll move into Gemini.

That’s because the Moon is in a close orbit around Earth, so it moves quickly against the background of stars. It takes only about a month to complete a full circle through that background.

Jupiter, on the other hand, is orbiting the Sun, not Earth. And it’s a long way from the Sun — about half a billion miles. At that distance, it takes the giant planet almost 12 years to circle all the way through the starry background. So it’ll stay within the borders of Aries until the end of April. And once it exits, it won’t return to the ram until the spring of 2035.

During that interval, the Moon will make about 150 full turns across the sky — including many more close encounters with brilliant Jupiter.

Again, look for Jupiter and the bright gibbous Moon beginning in late evening, and continuing through the night — a beautiful pairing that repeats every month or so.

Tomorrow: a “psychic” mission of discovery.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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