Look up! The moon is visiting bright Jupiter in the night sky
The moon and its planetary pals are putting on quite the sky show this week.
The moon has already visited Venus and Saturn in the night sky over the past few days, and tonight (Dec. 8) Earth’s natural satellite will sidle up next to Jupiter. Look toward the western sky an hour or so after sunset to get a good look at the dazzling duo.
Saturn and Venus will be part of that view as well, arrayed in a diagonal line extending downward and to the right of Jupiter.
“It’s as if they’re on a celestial string. And indeed we astronomers call this imaginary string across our sky the ecliptic,” Deborah Byrd and John Jardine Goss wrote in a recent EarthSky story. “It’s really the flat plane of our solar system, the plane in which all the major planets — and, for the most part, their moons — travel around the sun.”
The moon will continue moving higher in the sky over the coming days, getting farther away from the trio of planets. But it will still be relatively close to Jupiter tomorrow evening (Dec. 9), so make sure to take a look then as well.
And you might want to give Venus, currently the brightest planet in the evening sky, some extra attention. The second rock from the sun will disappear beneath the evening horizon in early January, emerging late that same month as a “morning star” that shines before sunrise. Venus won’t be back in our evening skies until December 2022.
Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and (obviously) the moon are all visible with the naked eye at the moment. But if you’d like to improve your view, check out our guide for the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals available right now. And our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can help you pick the best gear to capture and save your skywatching sights.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.