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!
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.
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.
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.