The moon and Jupiter are putting on a wonderful show here at the end of November 2012. They are near each other for some nights, with a penumbral eclipse of the moon on the morning of November 28 for North American observers (evening of November 28 in Asia), and with the moon and Jupiter closest on the night of November 28. You won’t want to miss seeing the moon and Jupiter – the brightest and second-brightest orbs of evening – lighting up the nighttime from dusk until dawn.
Technically speaking for us in North America, the crest of the full moon occurs on Wednesday morning, November 28, at 8:46 a.m. Central Standard Time (14:46 Universal Time).
For Asia, Australia and New Zealand on November 28, the moon turns full after sunset. Although the full moon happens at the same instant worldwide, our clocks read differently by time zone. But no matter where you live worldwide, you’ll see a full-looking moon pairing up with Jupiter on the nights around November 28.
Why is Jupiter so bright and so near the November full moon? Next week, on December 2-3, 2012, Earth will pass between the sun and Jupiter. Our own movement in orbit is what’s placing Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky – or, as astronomers say, at opposition. A full moon is opposite the sun, too. It must be, in order to have its fully lighted face – or day side – turned in our direction. Moon opposite the sun. Jupiter opposite the sun. So Jupiter has to be near this November full moon. Read more about Jupiter’s 2012 opposition here.
By the way, the upcoming opposition of Jupiter on December 2-3 will be the closest opposition of Jupiter until the year 2021. Read more about Jupiter’s closeness at the 2012 opposition here.
The moon and Jupiter soar upward during the evening hours, climb highest in the sky around midnight, and sink low in the west by morning dawn. So if you wish to see Jupiter, the giant planet of our solar system, simply look for the full or nearly full moon and note the very bright starlike object nearby. You can’t miss it.
If you live in the Southern Hemisphere (South America, southern Africa), it’s possible that you might not see Jupiter next to the moon on the night of November 28. From this part of the world, the moon will actually occult –cover over – Jupiter on this night. Click here for more information.
Jupiter, the fifth planet outward from the sun, has a diameter that’s 11 times greater than Earth’s. But that’s only the beginning of the story of how humongous this planet really is. To know Jupiter’s volume relative to Earth’s, you have to cube the diameter (multiply the diameter by itself three times): 11 x 11 x 11 = 1,331. That means Jupiter has 1,331 times the volume of Earth. In other words, over 1,000 Earths would fit inside Jupiter. And, just to think, the sun’s diameter is 10 times greater than Jupiter’s.
Bottom line: Let the moon guide you to the giant planet Jupiter on the nights around November 28, 2012. Although the moon will leave the evening sky after a few more days, you’ll still be able to see dazzling Jupiter in the evening sky, starting at nightfall, for many months to come. Next week, Earth will pass between Jupiter and the sun, thus bringing the planet to its 2012 opposition. This opposition of Jupiter will be the closest until the year 2021.