Conjunction of the Moon & Jupiter

Courtesy of Vickie Wininger

Courtesy of Vickie Wininger

Get ready for a stargazer’s delight tonight as a 76% visible Moon and the second largest planet, Jupiter, will appear less than one degree from each other.  They will appear the closest tonight, until 2026. Their closest approach will occur at 10:00 pm.  Viewers in most of South America will actually see the Moon move in front of Jupiter, or an ‘occultation’. Also to note, the bright orange star Aldebaran will be shining brightly, just to the lower left of the pair. Below is a sky map for tonight’s viewing of Jupiter and the Moon.

Tonight will be perfect viewing of the night sky, with a crystal clear sky, unfortunately it will be the coldest night of the winter season and year so far.  Temperatures by 7:00 pm will be in the mid to upper 30s and by 10:00 pm, in the low 30s, so bundle up if you plan to view the night sky!

On a side note, we have had a few reports of a bright, moving object near the sun on social media, and one viewer stated that it seemed like there was a “lightning show behind the sun.”  We have contacted Dr. Bill Cooke at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and have not heard back yet.  We are not sure what the object is, or if it could just be an optical illusion. The closest planet to the Sun, Mercury, is located just to the upper left of the Sun, but the Sun is so bright, we are not sure if it is visible.  Solar flares are typically outside of the visible range as well.  If you have also seen this phenomenon, feel free to email the WHNT!

– Jennifer Watson

Twitter: @JWatson_Wx

Facebook: Jennifer Watson WHNT