We’ve been talking here about the planets arranging and rearranging themselves in the morning sky the past couple weeks. Guess what shook out of all their orbital meanderings? A fabulous conjunction of Mars and Jupiter!
I walked out this morning to the sight. Venus grabbed my attention immediately because of its overwhelming brilliance, but Mars and Jupiter were even more amazing. They were so tight they almost seemed to touch. Only 0.2° or two-thirds of a full moon separated them. I couldn’t stop staring, so I put my dumbfoundedness to use by taking a few photos.
The view through the telescope proved equally fine. All four of Jupiter’s brightest moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto — were on full display, flung out on either side of the fat, banded globe. I even got a wink from the Great Red Spot, which happened to be squarely in view.
Mars glared a ruddy orange in the same field of view. I cranked up the magnification to 124x and then 242x and waited for the air to settle down. In steady moments, the planet’s “gibbous moon” shape was obvious, and I even caught a few glimpses of the frosty north polar cap.
Brrrr! Chilly on Mars and brisk back here on Earth, too with just 24° staring back from the thermometer. Beautiful astronomical sights have a way of keeping you warm inside no matter the temperature. Tomorrow morning, Jupiter and Mars will still be very close (0.2°). The gap widens on Monday morning (the19th) to 0.7°, still a tight sight. Set the alarm and go for it. You’ll see them best from about two hours to 75 minutes before sunrise in the east.