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Moon and Jupiter closest on March 29

2015-march-29-jupiter-moon-night-sky-chart

Tonight is Mar 29, 2015

Moon Phase Courtesy U.S. Naval Observatory

Tonight – March 29, 2015 – it’ll be hard to miss the king planet Jupiter as the dazzling starlike object near the moon. The moon and Jupiter – nighttime’s brightest and third-brightest lights in the sky – meet up in front of the constellation Cancer the Crab, not far from the legendary Beehive star cluster.

Of course, Venus ranks as the second-brightest orb of nighttime, after the moon, and you can see Venus, too, tonight, in the western sky at dusk and nightfall. Venus sets by mid-to-late evening, but the moon and Jupiter stay out nearly all night long.

The moon and Jupiter climb highest up for the night around mid-evening, and tonight’s shining couple won’t set in the west until shortly before the first stirrings of morning twilight on March 30.

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Our friend Scott MacNeill posted this photo at EarthSky Photos on Google+.  It's Jupiter with the Beehive star cluster to the planet's upper left.  Thanks, Scott!  Binoculars should reveal the Beehive near Jupiter now, but wait until the moon moves away!

Our friend Scott MacNeill posted this photo at EarthSky Photos on Google+. It’s Jupiter with the Beehive star cluster to the planet’s upper left. He captured them earlier this month. Thanks, Scott! Binoculars should reveal the Beehive near Jupiter, but wait until the moon moves away!

Jupiter is truly a giant world. It’d take 11 Earths lined up side by side to equal the diameter of Jupiter. However, that’s only the beginning of the story. You have to square the diameter to find out Jupiter’s surface area exceeds that of Earth by around 121 times (11 x 11 = 121). And then you have to cube the diameter to find out that Jupiter’s volume is some 1,300 times greater than Earth’s (11 x 11 x 11 = 1,331).

Jupiter has more than twice the mass of all the other solar system planets, moons and asteroids combined!

Jupiter also boasts of having the largest, third-largest, fourth-largest and sixth-largest moons in the solar system (Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa).

Meanwhile, Saturn’s moon, Titan, ranks as the second-largest moon. And Earth’s moon ranks as fifth-largest.

View larger Graphic courtesy of the Planetary Society

View larger. | Graphic courtesy of the Planetary Society

There are at least 18 moons in the solar system that are massive enough for self-gravity to mold these worlds into sphere-shaped objects. If these rather massive moons directly orbited the sun, instead of their parent planets, these worlds would be classified as planets or dwarf planets.

Because Earth’s closest celestial neighbor, the moon, revolves around Earth, our captured world is considered to be Earth’s moon, not a planet or dwarf planet.

Bottom line: Tonight – March 29, 2015 – watch our moon, the fifth-largest in the solar system, pair up with Jupiter, the king of the planets, on the great dome of the nighttime sky.

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