Here’s wishing you all clear skies after sunset on Monday, June 30, 2014. If you have them, find an unobstructed horizon in the sunset direction to view the fine evening sky scene at dusk. Bring along your family and friends, and binoculars if you have them. Don’t forget the youngsters – whose sharp eyes can be relied upon to find planets and stars popping out into the sky at dusk. Eagle-eyed folks may catch the moon as soon as 15 minutes (or earlier) after sunset. The bow of the waxing crescent moon points in the general direction of the planet Jupiter, which sharp eyes will probably catch 30 to 45 minutes after sundown.
The moon and Jupiter come out first at dusk because they’re the brightest and second-brightest heavenly bodies in tonight’s evening sky. Don’t tarry because they’ll set by late dusk or nightfall.
The planet Mercury and brighter stars may become visible around 45 minutes after the sun goes down. The three bright stars in the vicinity of the moon and planets are the Gemini stars – Castor and Pollux – plus Procyon, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor the Lesser Dog. Given clear skies, there’s a good chance of mortal eyes beholding these two planets and three stars an hour or so after sunset.
If you can see the moon but not Jupiter, and have binoculars, aim them at the moon to see Jupiter nearby. Spot Jupiter now while you can, because this giant world will sink into the glare of the sun and disappear from view in July 2014. While you’re at it, be sure to get an eyeful of earthshine on the dark side of the moon.
Bottom line: Around the world on the evening of June 30, 2014, let the waxing crescent moon be your guide to the planet Jupiter.