‘Challenge’ Photos And A Jupiter-Moon Conjunction

The 2-day-old moon and Mercury (at right) take on the colors of dusk as they shine in the west together last night. Credit: Bob King
The 2-day-old moon and Mercury (at upper right) take on the colors of dusk as they shine in the west together last night. Credit: Bob King

Did you have any luck with last night’s challenge of finding the crescent moon and all five bright planets? I decided to take the challenge too. There were a few surprises. First, the both the thin lunar crescent and Venus were higher and easier to see than I expected. And once the sky darkened a bit, Jupiter was a no-brainer. Mercury however, shining at magnitude +0.9 was much more elusive. Thankfully, the moon was nearly, making the planet an easy catch in binoculars.

Jason Bottari took this photo at dusk in Boston, Mass. Thursday evening. It shows the moon, Venus (lower right) and Jupiter (upper left). Credit: Jason Bottari
Jason Bottari took this photo at dusk in Boston, Mass. Thursday evening. It shows the moon, Venus (lower right) and Jupiter (upper left). Mercury may be in there too, but it’s difficult to make out. Credit: Jason Bottari

Jason Bottari sent along a few photos of the scene too. His wide shot captures the moon, Jupiter and Venus. Compare his closeup of the moon with Mercury. You’ll see that the duo are closer together than in my photo. Boston is in the eastern time zone, so sunset and dusk come an hour earlier than they do in Minnesota. During that hour, the moon moved to the left or east, distancing itself from the planet.

Closeup of the moon and Mercury from Boston last night. Compare the moon-Mercury separation to mine taken an hour or so later. Credit: Jason Bottari
Closeup of the moon and Mercury from Boston last night. Compare the moon-Mercury separation to mine taken an hour or so later. Credit: Jason Bottari

Tonight, you can watch the west again for yet another conjunction, this time of the crescent and Jupiter; they’ll only be 1° apart! Try to see if you can spot any of Jupiter’s moons. You’ll need a pair of 10-power binoculars, sharp focus (focus on the moon first) and steady hands. The map will help you identify the four brightest — Ganymede, Europa, Io and Callisto.

A simulated binocular view of the moon and Jupiter this evening at dusk for the Midwest time zone. If you live east, the moon will lie further right; if west, further to the left. I=Io, II=Europa, III=Ganymede and IV=Callisto. Stellarium
A simulated binocular view of the moon and Jupiter at dusk tonight (Aug. 5) for the central time zone. If you live east, the moon will lie further to the right; if west, further to the left. I=Io, II=Europa, III=Ganymede and IV=Callisto. Stellarium

The moons further from the planet, Ganymede and Callisto, should be relatively easy to see. Because of Jupiter’s glare, Io and Europa will prove more challenging. Wait a minute, did I hear that word ‘challenge’ again?

Venus shines low down in the northwestern sky 25 minutes after sundown last night. Credit: Bob King
Venus shines all by its lonely low down in the northwestern sky 25 minutes after sundown last night. Credit: Bob King