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Moon and Jupiter close on August 24

Tonight – August 24, 2017 – look for the waxing crescent moon to light up the western sky shortly after sunset. Then, in the deepening dusk, look for the dazzling king planet Jupiter to shine rather close to this slim moon.

Found ’em? Now watch for the star Spica to pop out in the vicinity of the moon and Jupiter at nightfall. Although Spica ranks as one of the sky’s brightest stars, it pales next to Jupiter, the brightest starlike object in the evening sky. The king planet shines some 12 times more brilliantly than Spica, Virgo’s sole 1st-magnitude star.

Venus is brighter than Jupiter, but this world remains a fixture of the morning sky for the rest of 2017. There’s no mistaking Venus for Jupiter right now. Jupiter will leave the evening sky in October 2017, and a few weeks thereafter, will meet up with Venus to showcase a close-knit conjunction of the sky’s two brightest planets in morning sky on November 13, 2017. Circle that date on your calendar!

By the way, there is another bright planet in the evening sky: Saturn. From northerly latitudes, the ringed planet is found rather low in the southern sky at dusk and nightfall. From the Southern Hemisphere, Saturn appears high overhead at early evening.

Click here for recommended almanacs; they can give you the rising and setting times for the sun, moon and planets in your sky.

From everyplace worldwide, the moon moves eastward relative to the background planets and stars. So, the moon is heading for Jupiter on August 24, because Jupiter is to the east of the moon on this date.

At the same night each evening, note the moon’s change of position relative to the planet Jupiter and the star Spica. The green line depicts the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the zodiac.

As seen from North America, the moon is west of Jupiter on August 24, and then to the east of Jupiter on August 25. See the sky chart above.

Bottom line: On August 24, 2017, as soon as darkness falls, use the moon to find the nearby planet Jupiter and the star Spica low in the west.

Bruce McClure