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Moon and Jupiter close on August 5

Tonight – August 5, 2016 – 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 close to this slim moon.

Found ’em? Now find two more planets. The bow of the lunar crescent points in the general direction of the planets Mercury and Venus. At mid-northern latitudes, you’ll have to spot Venus some 30 to 45 minutes after sunset, and Mercury some 45 to 60 minutes after sunset.

These two worlds set before it gets good and dark, so binoculars may come in handy for finding these planets in the glow of evening twilight!

See all 5 bright planets after sunset in early August, 2016

The bow of the slender waxing crescent moon points toward the planets Mercury and Venus. Catch them at dusk before they follow the sun beneath the horizon. Binoculars could come in handy.  The green line depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected on the great dome of sky.

The bow of the slender waxing crescent moon points toward the planets Mercury and Venus on August 5, 2016. The green line depicts the ecliptic – or sun’s path across our sky.

Mercury and Venus will be easier to spot at dusk and early evening from the northern tropics and the Southern Hemisphere than at more northerly latitudes. At southerly latitudes, these inferior planets – Mercury and Venus – stand higher up above the horizon at sunset, and stay out later after sundown.

Click here for recommended almanacs; they can give you the setting times for the moon, Venus and Mercury 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 5, because Jupiter is to the east of the moon on this date.

As seen from North America, the moon is west of Jupiter on August 5, and then to the east of Jupiter on August 6. See the sky chart above.

As evening dusk falls over New Zealand on August 6, 2016, the moon will be spectacularly close to Jupiter on the sky’s dome. Moreover, somebody adept at using a telescope can watch the moon occult Jupiter during the daylight hours on August 6 from northernmost Australia and Indonesia, as Jupiter disappears behind the moon’s dark side and reappears on the moon’s lit side.

Chart via International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA). The solid white lines mark the northern and southern limits (graze paths), with the occultation occurring in nighttime. The solid blue lines show where the occultation takes place at evening dusk, and the red lines where the occultation occurs at daytime.

Chart via International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA). The solid white lines mark the northern and southern limits (graze paths), with the occultation occurring in nighttime. The solid blue lines show where the occultation takes place at evening dusk, and the red lines where the occultation occurs at daytime.

Bottom line: On August 5 and 6, 2016, as soon as darkness falls, use the moon to find the nearby planet Jupiter low in the west. Then use the moon’s bow to find the planets Mercury and Venus near the horizon.

Bruce McClure

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