The Moon Meets Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto
Thursday night will bring the First Quarter Moon phase and will also begin the moon’s dance with the gas giant planets. Here are some observing tips.
On the evening of Thursday, September 5, look for the moon in the southwestern sky, and positioned less than four finger widths to the right (or 4 degrees to the celestial northwest) of the bright planet Jupiter. The moon and Jupiter will both fit within the field of view of binoculars. If you watch the pair over several hours, starting at dusk, you will see the moon’s orbit carry it closer to the planet. On Friday night, the waxing gibbous moon will hop to sit on the east side of Jupiter. Bright planet is spending the rest of this year between Ophiuchus (the Serpent-Bearer) and Scorpius (the Scorpion).
Yellow-tinted Saturn is prominent in the southern evening sky, too - but it is less bright than Jupiter. The ringed planet will be visible from dusk until about 2 am local time. Saturn’s position in the sky is just to the upper left (or celestial east) of the stars that form the teapot-shaped constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). To find Saturn, look about 3 fist diameters to the left (east) of Jupiter. The Milky Way is between them.
On Saturday night, the moon will land immediately above the stars of Sagittarius (the Archer), and a palm’s width the right (or celestial west) of Saturn. The Moon will also meet with Pluto at that time. As with Jupiter, the moon will hop to the other side of Saturn on Sunday night – and the ringed planet will stay near the Teapot for the rest of this year. Observers in northern and western Australia will see the lunar occultation of Saturn. You’ll be able to spot Saturn with your eyes, but you’ll need a telescope to spot Pluto.
Our Star Walk 2 app will help you identify celestial objects in the sky over your location and keep you up to date with the latest astronomical news.