Science

Watch the Moon visit Jupiter in the sky tonight (December 1)

On Thursday (December 1), the Moon and Jupiter will be in conjunction, sharing the same right ascension in the night sky.

The nine-day moon will appear two degrees south of Jupiter, and the two objects will come close to each other, which is called an appulsion.

For skywatchers in New York City, the Jupiter-Moon conjunction will become visible around 4:47 pm EDT (21:47 GMT), when it is 36 degrees above the southeast horizon, according to In the Sky. (will open in a new tab). (Your fist at arm’s length corresponds to about ten degrees across the sky.)

Related: What is the phase of the moon today? Moon phases 2022

The Moon and Jupiter will reach their highest point at 47 degrees above the southern horizon at approximately 19:09 EST (0009 GMT December 2). The conjunction will remain visible until around 00:20 EST on December 2 (05:20 GMT), when they both fall below seven degrees above the western horizon.

During the conjunction, the Moon and Jupiter will be in the constellation Pisces with a right ascension of 23 hours 57 minutes 00 seconds. The Moon will be magnitude -12.2 and Jupiter -2.6, with the minus prefix indicating particularly bright objects in the skies above Earth.

The Moon and Jupiter will be too far apart to be seen with a telescope, but the conjunction should be visible with binoculars or the naked eye under good viewing conditions such as clear and dark skies.

Even though the Moon and Jupiter will be close together in the sky, this is just the result of a perspective from Earth, and they remain separated by a huge distance in the solar system.

An illustration of Jupiter making a direct eastward motion through southwestern Pisces. (Image credit: Starry Night Software)

The gas giant, which is the most massive planet in the solar system and the second largest body after the Sun, Jupiter, is the fifth planet from our star. The closest gas giant to Earth is 365 million miles (588 million kilometers), while the most distant Jupiter is 601 million miles (968 million kilometers) from our planet.

The appearance of proximity is not the only illusion that perspective creates with the Moon and Jupiter. During the conjunction, the Moon will appear much larger and brighter than the distant gas giant.

However, this could not be a less accurate representation of the real sizes of the two astronomical objects.

Jupiter is so large that NASA estimates it would take as many as 1,300 Earths to fill its volume. In turn, it would take about 50 moons to fill the volume of the Earth, meaning that it would take 65,000 moons to fill the volume of Jupiter.

This Earth-filled Jupiter would be much denser than a gas giant made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. However, these elements are not gas throughout Jupiter. Deep in its atmosphere, intense pressure compresses hydrogen gas into a liquid. This gives the planet the largest ocean in the solar system, but it is made up of liquid hydrogen, not water.

Even though Jupiter isn’t all gas, Jupiter’s density is still only a quarter of Earth’s, while the Moon’s is about three-fifths Earth’s.

The conjunction between the Moon and Jupiter gives skywatchers a good chance of spotting Jupiter, one of the five brightest planets on Earth, if they are prepared to brave the chill of a December evening.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve captured a Jupiter-Moon conjunction and would like to share it with Space.com readers, please send your photos, comments, name, and location to spacephotos@.

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