Moon and Jupiter Conduct Celestial Dance; Don't Miss the Show

First Posted: Jan 21, 2013 10:34 AM EST

Stargazers be warned: you may be in for a fantastic celestial display tonight, January 21. Jupiter and Earth's moon will appear just a finger-width apart for observers across North America. Those who live in South America, though, may even have a better view; they could see Jupiter slip behind the moon during the night.

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system; and this will be the closest that the massive planet will appear to the moon until the year 2026. The phenomenon that will occur will be called an appulse, an event caused by perspective only rather than the actual distance between the two celestial bodies. In reality, the moon will be about 248,700 miles from Earth, while Jupiter will be nearly 413.8 million miles away.

During the night, Jupiter will appear to be moving across a path that takes it above the moon. It will shine about three times brighter than the brightest star, Sirius, and give stargazers a great view despite its close proximity to the moon. After their encounter, the moon will appear to move slowly away to the left as it leaves Jupiter behind.

What time will Jupiter appear closest to the moon? For most major U.S. cities along the east coast, the perfect time to view the phenomenon will be around 11 p.m. EST. However, it is possible that clouds may block the event from waiting eyes. Do not fret, though; the online sky watching website Slooh Space Camera will provide free telescope views of the event during a 30-minute webcast that begins at 9 p.m. EST. Now that's something to stay up for.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

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