Gaze westward at dusk and early evening on May 12, 2013 to see a wondrous evening tableau. You’ll find waxing crescent moon with the dazzling planet Jupiter. If you’re looking early enough, say 30 to 50 minutes after sunset, you may also catch the planet Venus shining by the horizon. Binoculars may be helpful!
For most of the world, the moon and Jupiter will stage their closest encounter for the month after sunset on this Sunday evening. The featured chart at the top of this post is specifically designed for mid-northern North American latitudes. But – no matter where you are worldwide – you’ll see the moon and Jupiter shining close together this evening, in the west after sunset. In fact, sky watchers in Europe, Africa and Asia will see the moon and Jupiter closer together than we will in North America. From those parts of the world, the moon and Jupiter will fit into a single binocular field of view.
As you gaze at Jupiter and the moon, assuming you’re watching not long after the sun goes down, be aware that you can see an even brighter planet, Venus, lurking near the horizon. You’ll need an unobstructed view westward to spot Venus. And you’ll need to look as soon as possible after sunset, because Venus sets less than one hour after sunset at mid-northern latitudes. Meanwhile, the moon and Jupiter will stay out for an hour or so past dark.
Bottom line: On the evening of May 12, 2013 – after sunset – let the beautiful evening crescent moon guide your eye to Jupiter, the king of the planets. You might also see Venus, the planet named for the goddess of love and beauty, below Jupiter and the moon.