|Two of the brightest objects in the night sky head towards a close encounter on Monday night. The sky show begins after local nightfall on the 21st when the waxing gibbous moon snuggles up to brilliant white Jupiter in the southeast. This closeness is of course just an illusion – they are in reality separate by hundreds of millions of kilometers.|
Lunar conjunctions with planets are not that unusual, however they are rarely this close, says Raminder Singh Samra, a resident astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, Canada.
“Each month the Moon will pass by every planet in the night sky but they are usually a few degrees or few moons discs apart,” said Samra. ” This time we get to witness them passing within half a degree of each other – that’s less than the width of a finger held at arm’s length apart.”
If you miss this alignment, the next time Jupiter and the Moon will pass close to each other will be on March 17 but won’t appear to North Americans quite as close as this one. On August 2016 when the pair will appear even closer in North American skies.
Here are some of Samra’s observing tips…
Who can see event?
The cosmic encounter will be best seen throughout both of the American continents. The exact time the Moon appears closest to Jupiter will depend on location – 7 p.m. in the Pacific time zone, 8:30 p.m. Mountain, 10 p.m. Central, and 11:30 p.m. Eastern time. Some parts of South America will be in for a special treat as they will witness the Moon completely block out Jupiter in the sky.. for local observing times click onto the International Occultation Timing Association website