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Moon, Jupiter before sunrise February 7

Tonight – February 6, 2018 – if you’re a night owl, you can watch the moon and Jupiter climbing above the eastern horizon in the wee hours after midnight (on February 7). If you’re out at this very late hour with someone special, it might be fun to point out this very bright planet. On the other hand, if you’re an early bird, you might want to view the moon and Jupiter in the predawn sky on February 7 instead.

The moon and Jupiter will be shining in front of the constellation Libra the Scales, with the moon at or near its last quarter phase. The last quarter moon comes on February 7, at 15:54 Universal Time (UTC). At North American and US time zones, that places the time of last quarter moon on February 7 at 11:54 a.m. AST, 10:54 a.m. EST, 9:54 a.m. CDT, 8:54 a.m. MST, 7:54 a.m. PST, 6:54 a.m. AKST and 5:54 a.m. HST.

Either late tonight or early morning tomorrow, that brilliant starlike object near the moon will be the dazzling planet Jupiter. You may – or may not – see Libra’s two brightest stars, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, in the glare of the moon. But once the moon moves by Jupiter after a few more days, you can use Jupiter to find Libra’s two modestly-bright third-magnitude stars for months to come.

Let Jupiter be your guide to the constellation Libra and its two brightest stars, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali.

Click here for recommended almanacs; they can help you find the exact rising times for the moon and Jupiter into your sky.

After the the moon and Jupiter come up above the horizon tonight, they’ll continue to climb upward until soaring highest up for the night at roughly 6 a.m. local time, as seen from around the world. The moon and Jupiter will be well placed for viewing before dawn’s light washes the sky.

Jupiter and the constellation Libra’s stars rise about four minutes earlier daily and one-half hour earlier weekly.

So in another few months, you can look forward to seeing Jupiter and the constellation Libra in the evening sky well before your bedtime. Jupiter’s opposition – when Earth will pass between this outer planet and the sun, marking the middle of the best time of year to see it – will come on May 9, 2018.

Sky chart of the constellation Libra the Scales via IAU (International Astronomical Union).

Bottom line: Tonight – February 6, 2018 – you can watch the moon and Jupiter climbing above the eastern horizon very late tonight or in the predawn sky on February 7.

Bruce McClure

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