On January 21, 2013, the moon swept near the planet Jupiter. North Americans were particularly well-placed to see the moon and Jupiter very close together in the evening sky. In fact, as seen from the U.S. and Canada, this was the closest the moon and Jupiter will appear in our sky until the year 2026. It was a waxing gibbous moon – more than half-lighted but less than full – that passed less than a degree to the south of Jupiter last night. The pairing was very beautiful, as seen from around the globe, not only on January 21 but also on January 19 and 20, and for several nights before that as well. And don’t forget to look on January 22!
Most of the photos below are from EarthSky friends on Facebook. We love you guys! Thank you all.
Moon and Jupiter on January 21, 2013 as seen by Laurie Sullivan in Los Angeles.
Moon and Jupiter in El Salvador on January 21, 2013, as captured by our friend Manuel Gilmour. Thank you, Manuel!
Moon and Jupiter on January 21, 2013 from our friend Genie L. Robinson in southwest Texas. Thank you, Genie.
Moon and Jupiter seen in Singapore – January 21, 2013 – as captured by EarthSky Facebook friend Slune Chan. Thank you, Slune!
The moon and Jupiter could be seen with the eye alone from inside large cities. Here they are as seen by EarthSky Facebook friend Pam Felcher in West Hollywood, California. January 21, 2013.
The moon edged closer to Jupiter for several days prior to January 21, and we received many wonderful photos at EarthSky on Facebook. Thank you all! This one is from Denise Talley in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. It’s the moon and Jupiter, surrounded by a lunar halo, on the night of January 20, 2013. Read more about lunar halos here.
EarthSky Facebook friend Timothy Boocock also captured the moon and Jupiter on the night of January 20-21, 2013 from Trysil, Norway. Thank you, Timothy!
Our friend Cattleya Flores Viray in San Diego captured the moon, Jupiter and a meteor! You can also clearly see the Pleiades star cluster in this photo. View larger. Thanks, Cattleya!
EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison captured the moon just as it was setting on January 20-21, with Jupiter above it. The moon and Jupiter are on the far right, bottom, of the photo. Also notice the constellation Orion, toward the left side of the photo. You can recognize Orion for his Belt, a short straight row of three medium-bright stars. Thank you, Ken!
EarthSky Facebook friend Janet Furlong in Culpeper, Virginia took this photo on January 19, 2013. The two brightest objects are the moon and Jupiter. View larger. Janet says: Step outside and lift your head up and view the sky. Totally gorgeous … so much to see tonight.
EarthSky Facebook friend Timothy Boocock in Trysil, Norway also captured the moon and Jupiter on January 18. He said he is hoping for clear skies and fantastic winter landscape in the coming nights. Thank you, Timothy, and good luck! View larger.
Learn more about how to spot Jupiter at EarthSky’s visible planet guide.
Why is such a bright moon passing Jupiter around now? Earth went between the sun and Jupiter on December 3; this was Jupiter’s yearly opposition. So Jupiter was opposite the sun in early December, 2012. Likewise, when it is nearly or totally opposite the sun, the moon appears in a brightly illuminated phase as seen from Earth (learn how to understand moon phases here). So for some months before and after early December, we on Earth have been seeing a bright moon near Jupiter for a few days every month. EarthSky friends from around the world began posting moon-Jupiter photos on our Facebook page, beginning in late 2012. They show the moon getting closer to Jupiter, then farther away again, then closer and farther again, as the moon pursues its monthly orbit around Earth. Enjoy them! In every photo, Jupiter is the brightest starlike object visible.
Waxing gibbous moon approaching Jupiter on January 20
Close pairing of moon and Jupiter on night of January 21
A telescopic image of Jupiter (left) and the moon as captured on October 5, 2012 by our friend Nipun Wickramasekara in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
A layered image of the moon and Jupiter one day later than the picture above, on October 6, 2012. From our friend VegaStar Carpentier in Paris.
Our friend Timothy Boocock in Norway took this photo of the moon and Jupiter, with reddish Aldebaran nearby, on October 20, 2012. You can also see the dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster. Here’s what Timothy called the ground cover in this photo: snow diamonds.
But the moon and Jupiter are also beautiful to behold with the eye alone. Here’s a wider-angle shot from October 31, 2012 from EarthSky Facebook friend Annie Lewis in Madrid, Spain.
By the night of November 2, 2012, Jupiter was rising in the east some hours ahead of the moon. This image is from the Sierra Madre mountain range in the Marikina Valley in the Philippines. It’s from our friend Jv Noriega.
This photo – from our friend Lyle Evans in Highland, California – is great for showing other objects you’ll find in Jupiter’s vicinity. Jupiter is the bright starlike object near the moon. You can see the dipper-shaped Pleiades cluster (upper right of photo). Near Jupiter, you can see the V-shaped Hyades cluster, with the reddish star Aldebaran the brightest star in the Hyades. And you can see the three Belt stars of the constellation Orion, plus Orion’s brightest stars, reddish Betelgeuse (above the Belt) and blue-white Rigel (below the Belt). Lyle captured this photo on November 3, 2012. View larger.
Our friend Lakshmi Ravishankar in Pune, India captured Jupiter and the moon when they were near each other again, on the night of November 20, 2012.
Many have seen Jupiter and the moon surrounded by lunar halos this fall and winter. These halos are caused by ice crystals in the upper air. Read more about lunar halos here. This photo is from EarthSky Facebook friend Danny Crocker-Jensen in Wardsville, Missouri. He took it on December 23, 2012.
Our friend Patricia Smith Mims was in South Carolina on December 23, 2012, but she saw a lunar halo, too, along with Jupiter and the moon.
You don’t need to be in a rural location to see the moon and Jupiter. Here they are on Christmas Eve – December 24, 2012 – above a church in Kuwait. This photo is from our friend Abdulmajeed Alshatti.
Moon and Jupiter over Baton Rouge, Lousiana on December 24, 2012 as seen by our friend Lance Bullion.
Moon and Jupiter on Christmas night – December 25, 2012 – as seen by our friend Jv Noriega in Manila, Philippines.
A telescopic view of the moon and Jupiter on December 25, 2012 as seen by our friend Buggy Paul in the U.K.
Bottom line: The giant planet Jupiter – largest planet in our solar system – is easy to spot because it’s the brightest starlike object in the sky seen from across the globe, from sunset until late at night. In the second half of January 2013, we all can watch at the moon edges toward Jupiter until – on January 21, 2013 – we in the U.S. and Canada see the moon and Jupiter the closest they’ll appear until the year 2026. This post contains many photos of the moon and Jupiter as seen in the last months of 2012. Enjoy them, and enjoy the sky.