The Moon Visits Jupiter and Venus

The crescent Moon visits Jupiter in the evening sky on Sunday, March 25th, and it visits Venus on Monday night.

The Moon Visits Jupiter and Venus
A thin crescent Moon makes dramatic pairings with both Jupiter and Venus in late March.
Sky & Telescope diagram
The Moon will visit Venus two more times before Venus's historic transit across the Sun's face on June 5th, but this is your last chance to see Jupiter paired with the Moon high in a dark night sky for several months. A very thin crescent Moon will hang above Jupiter shortly after sunset on April 22nd, but the pair will be very low in bright twilight.

These pairings will be most spectacular once the sky is fully dark, but they're also lovely, in a gentler way, while the sky is still blue or turning dark.

The Moon and Jupiter, March 25th
Jupiter is left of the Moon during the late afternoon on Sunday, March 25th.
S&T Diagram
These are also ideal opportunities to spot these planets — the two brightest — even before the Sun has set. That's relatively easy for Venus, but much harder for Jupiter, which is currently barely one-tenth as bright as Venus, though still much brighter than any star.

For spotting Jupiter during daylight, binoculars are absolutely essential. After you've spotted it in binoculars, you have a good shot at seeing it naked-eye as well — but it's not an easy sighting. Fortunately, the Moon passes genuinely close to Jupiter for observers in North America, a little more than 2° (four Moon-widths) away, as shown in the sky scene at upper right.

Venus and the Moon, March 26, 2012
Tony Flanders
Venus is a much easier sighting. Binoculars are still helpful, but Venus should be pretty easy to spot without them if conditions are right. Use the sky scene at right to know precisely where to look.

This is also a great time to view Venus through a telescope. You're actually more likely to see fine details in Venus's clouds during the day than at night, when Venus's overwhelming brilliance tends to overwhelm your eyes.

The biggest obstacle to seeing the planets during daylight hours is hazy air; these sightings are much easier when the sky is deep, dark blue. Also, they get dramatically easier as the Sun gets lower — and trivial as soon as the Sun goes below the theoretical horizon. See a local newspaper, an internet weather report, or our Online Almanac for the precise time of sunset at your location.

One thought on “The Moon Visits Jupiter and Venus

  1. Joseph Larsen

    I don’t think Venus is very hard spot in daylight right now even without the aid of the moon, so if you miss out or it’s cloudy, I suggest giving it a shot on any clear day. The trick, of course, is knowing exactly where to look…but a few minutes of scanning the sky about 40 degrees (about 3-4 fists extended to arm length) to the upper left of the setting sun should pick it up. It’s fairly easy even an hour before sunset, and a cinch 20 minutes to a half hour before. During this apparition I have spotted it up to 3 hours before sunset with some careful searching on crisp winter days.

    Jupiter on the other hand I have not had much success finding during the day with the unaided eye, even with the moon as a guide, but tomorrow will be a great opportunity to attempt it again, weather permitting of course.

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