Tuesday, February 7th, 2023
Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

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Star Watch: Jupiter and a Crescent Moon

Hello fellow star-gazers!

If your local skies are clear after sunset on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, don’t miss an impressive night-sky sight. The planet Jupiter and a waxing, crescent Moon will appear close together in the western sky. They may look close from our viewpoint on Earth, but actually they are several hundred million miles apart.

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system with a diameter about 11 times larger than Earth. So 1,000 Earths would fit inside the sphere of Jupiter! It is also the third brightest object in our night sky being out-shined only by the Moon and Venus. Jupiter has about 80 moons (that we know of), probably a result of its huge gravitational pull. You can see four of its largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – with binoculars or a spotting scope under dark conditions.

The Moon and Jupiter may appear close enough at this time to get both in the same view looking through binoculars. The term “crescent” defines the Moon’s thin shape as it begins its orbit between the “new moon” phase and the “first quarter” phase.

“Waxing” refers to its increase in size during the first half of its orbit, an
analogy to a burning candle as melting wax accumulates.

Incidentally, a “waxing” Moon is always lit on the right side as it proceeds through the first
half of its 29 1⁄2-day orbit around Earth.

Following a “full moon,” the Moon continues through its “waning” phases for the remainder of its
cycle being lit on the left side.

As if a crescent Moon isn’t enough, seeing Jupiter in the same binoculars
view is worth checking out, so put this one on your late January
calendar.

Bob Drieslein is a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who dabbles in star-gazing.

Email questions to him via: nightsky@outdoornews.com

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