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Moon and Jupiter closest January 27

Photo of Jupiter taken by Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. Dark spot on Jupiter is the shadow cast by Jupiter's moon Europa, which is just a touch smaller in size than Earth's moon. Image via NASA.

Tonight – January 27, 2016 – as seen from around the world, the waning gibbous moon will shine closer to the giant planet Jupiter that it did last night. Watch these two bright beauties climb over the eastern horizon a few to several hours after sunset!

Once the moon and Jupiter rise, they’ll be out for rest of the night. You can’t miss them. Jupiter is the brightest starlike object up there until Venus, the sky’s brightest planet, makes her appearance in the eastern sky during the predawn hours.

In fact, you can view all five visible planets in the predawn/dawn sky from now until about February 20, 2016! The moon will be sweeping past all of these planets in the days ahead. Let the moon lead you to sure identifications of the planets.

All five visible planets can be seen now, in the January 2016 morning sky!

See all five planets before dawn. Draw an imaginary line from Saturn through Venus to locate Mercury near the horizon as darkness begins to give way to dawn. Read more.

See all five planets before dawn. Draw an imaginary line from Saturn through Venus to locate Mercury near the horizon as darkness begins to give way to dawn. Read more.

View larger. For illustrative purposes, the moon appears larger than it does in the real sky. Mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia see the planets similarly positioned, yet see the moon somewhat offset toward the previous date. The green line on the above chart depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.

View larger. | Let the moon guide you to the five planets now visible before dawn in the coming days …

View larger. For illustrative purposes, the moon appears larger than it does in the real sky. Mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia will see the moon somewhat offset toward the previous date. The green line on the above chart depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.

View larger. | For illustrative purposes, the moon appears larger on our charts than it does in the real sky. Green line represents the ecliptic – sun’s path.

Jupiter appears starlike to the eye, and the moon looks bigger than Jupiter. But, of course, Jupiter is much larger than the moon and only appears star-like to our eyes because it is so much farther away – over 1,700 times farther away than tonight’s moon. The moon lies about 1.35 light-seconds from Earth at present. In stark contrast, Jupiter looms about 39 light-minutes away.

If the giant planet Jupiter were at the same distance from us as our moon, it’d take about 40 moons lined up side by side to equal the diameter of Jupiter. More amazing, perhaps, Jupiter’s disk would exceed the lunar disk by some 1,600 times.

It’s with good reason that Jupiter enjoys the king planet status. Watch the moon and Jupiter shine together from early-to-mid evening until dawn!

By the way, if you’re interested, look back at our January 26 post to know why the moon and Jupiter are pairing up more closely tonight than they were last night.

Bottom line: Let the moon be your guide to Jupiter, the fifth planet outward from the sun and the king of the planets, on the night of January 27, 2016! Then watch in the early morning sky as the moon sweeps past the five planets now visible there

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

Bruce McClure

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