Jupiter and the Moon Will Perform a Cosmic Cuddle Tonight! How to See It

This sky map shows the moon progressing higher up into the sky each night from Sept. 1 to Sept. 5, leading to its conjunction with Jupiter on Sept. 6.
Find Jupiter and the moon in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, on the evening of Sept. 5, 2019. The pair will set in the west around midnight, depending on your location. Meanwhile, Saturn will appear nearby in the constellation Sagittarius. (Image credit: NASA)

If the sky is clear, you're in for a treat. The solar system's biggest planet — Jupiter — will nestle close to Earth's moon tonight (Sept. 5).

It's a pretty sight, even though this conjunction is all a matter of celestial geometry. On average, the moon is 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers) away from Earth, and Jupiter is an average distance of 391 million miles (630 million km) away. But in our sky, they will temporarily appear super-close to each other.

The two worlds will make their closest approach in Earth's sky — just over 2 degrees apart — on Friday (Sept. 6) at 3:40 a.m. EDT (0740 GMT), according to In-The-Sky.org. For skywatchers in the U.S.,both objects will be below the horizon. But you can see them a few hours on Thursday evening, and they will still be somewhat close together on the night after the conjunction. (You can find out exactly when the planets are visible from your specific location using timeanddate.com's night sky calculator.)

Related: The Brightest Visible Planets of the September 2019 Night Sky (opens in new tab)

To catch the cosmic sight, look at the southern horizon Thursday evening and find the moon. Shining beside it to the left, at magnitude -2.2, will be the bright planet Jupiter. Both worlds are in the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer. As a bonus, farther to the left of the bright pair is Saturn. On the night after the conjunction, Jupiter will appear on the right side of the moon and slightly farther away.

You can easily see Jupiter and the moon in the same field of view if you use your naked eyes or a pair of binoculars, but they are too widely separated to see in a telescope. However, using a telescope will be quite rewarding. The moon will be half full, and you can see a lot of crater detail along the line of the shadow — also called the terminator

Jupiter has four moons visible in small telescopes — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — as well as bands of colorful gas in the planet's atmosphere. In small telescopes, you may even occasionally glimpse the Great Red Spot, a large storm that has continued at least since telescopes were first used in the early 1600s.

If clouds block your view, you have another chance to see worlds meeting on Saturday (Sept. 7): the moon and Saturn will also have a close approach in the dusk sky. Watch Space.com for more details.

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of Jupiter and the moon and would like to share it with Space.com and our news partners for a story or gallery, send images and comments in to spacephotos@space.com

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace