Jupiter doesn’t know it, but the stealthy moon is on track to make a close approach to the planet this Thursday night. Tonight you’ll find the waning gibbous moon in edging into the constellation Taurus about one outstretched fist to the right of the Seven Sisters or Pleiades. Since it’s only one day past full, you’ll probably need binoculars to see the cluster. On Thursday, Jupiter and the slimming moon combine forces to shine with a mesmerizing radiance in the northeast around 9:30 p.m. and later.
If you have a telescope, you’ll see Jupiter’s moon Io to disappear as it’s eclipsed by Jove’s giant shadow. Eclipse occurs at 11:10 p.m. (CDT) tonight Oct. 30. Start watching a few minutes before that time. By 11:15 the moon will be gone.
Halloween night offers up yet another telescopic treat. As soon as Jupiter’s up in the east, you can follow the progress of Io’s inky shadow as it tracks across the clouds of the planet’s southern hemisphere. The event is called a shadow transit.
It begins at 8:18 and wraps up at 10:28 p.m. If you return at around 11:15 p.m. you’re in for another surprise – Io itself will exit the west side of the planet and appear like a bright pearl pinned to Jupiter’s limb.
Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Damian Peach, who takes some of the finest, most detailed pictures of the planets and moon, recently compiled a sequence of photos of Jupiter made between Oct. 10 and 13 into a very cool animation. Click the link to watch an entire 9.8 hour rotation of the planet condensed into less than a minute. Peach hails from the UK and uses an 11.8 inch (30cm) Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain for his photography.