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Moon, Jupiter, Winter Circle after sunset April 5, 6 and 7


Tonight for April 5, 2014

Look for the waxing crescent moon as soon as darkness falls on April 5, 2014. The nearby super-brilliant “star” is Jupiter, the fifth planet outward from the sun. The moon will be even closer to Jupiter tomorrow, as darkness falls on April 6.

For a challenge, you might want to use the moon and Jupiter to star-hop to the great big loop of stars known as Winter Circle. This Winter Circle is an asterism – a star pattern that is not a constellation. In fact, this brilliant star formation dwarfs the constellation Orion, with Orion’s bright star Rigel marking the southwest part of the Winter Circle.

The Winter Circle lassos the waxing crescent moon and the planet Jupiter on April 5, 2014.

The Winter Circle lassos the waxing crescent moon and the planet Jupiter on April 5, 2014.

You can see the Winter Circle from southerly latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, too. Keep in mind, however, that from this part of the world, the Winter Circle appears “upside-down,” with the star Sirius at top and the star Capella at bottom. Nonetheless, the moon, Jupiter and the constellation Orion serve as your guides to the Winter Circle from either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

If you’re familiar with the three moderately-bright stars of Orion’s Belt, use this compact line of stars to find two Winter Circle stars: Sirius and Aldebaran. Orion’ Belt points in one direction to Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky; and in the opposite direction, to Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull.

The two stars in the vicinity of Jupiter are Castor and Pollux, the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini the Twins. The star Procyon is found between Sirius and the Gemini stars, whereas Capella reigns as the northernmost star of the Winter Circle.

You can count on Jupiter to be your guide to the Winter Circle throughout April and May of 2014.

Bottom line: Northern Hemisphere spring is here, but the Winter Circle star are still here, for awhile. Soon, this star formation will start to sink into the sunset glare. On April 5, 6 and 7, the moon is also in this part of the sky. Jupiter is the bright object near the moon on these nights.

A planisphere is virtually indispensable for beginning stargazers. Order your EarthSky planisphere today.

Get your kids interested in astronomy and the sky! Use EarthSky’s lunar calendar as a fun way to enjoy the moon phases throughout the year.