Human Journey

Jupiter Doing Crescent Moon Driveby This Weekend

If you step outside tonight (and the skies are clear), look to the southwest just after sunset to see the start of a celestial driveby.

Just above the horizon you should see a slim sliver of a crescent moon—just 4 percent of the lunar orb’s daylit side will be facing Earth.

High above, to the left, you’ll see the gas giant planet Jupiter blazing like a bright star.

Over the course of the next three nights, Jupiter will seem to streak past the growing crescent moon as the pair climb higher in the sky. Jupiter will make its closest shave on Superbowl Sunday, February 6.

At 6 p.m. ET that evening, the moon will be at apogee—its farthest from Earth—for the month. Still, the slightly fatter crescent will be snuggled close to brilliant Jupiter in what’s called a conjunction: when two celestial objects appear to be near each other in the sky.

In reality, the moon will be about 252,000 miles (405,554 kilometers) away from Earth, while Jupiter will be at least 365 million miles (587 million kilometers) away.

The following is a (not to scale) representation of what the close encounter should look like on each night:

February 4: Facing Southwest

feb-4-moon.jpg

February 5: Facing West

feb-5-moon.jpg

February 6: Facing Southwest

feb-6-moon.jpg

February 7: Facing Southwest

feb-7-moon.jpg

So if you need a break from the football madness, take a stretch outside on Sunday night and keep your eyes peeled for a planetary passing.

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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

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