How To See Jupiter In Broad Daylight Today

This simulated binocular view shows the waxing moon and Jupiter around 7:30 p.m. CDT this evening (May 7). Field of view is ~5.5° Created with Stellarium

Up for a naked eye challenge? Most of us look for planets in a dark sky, or with Venus and Mercury, in twilight. But there are ways to view the brighter planets while the sun is still up. Go-to telescopes can point to bright stars and planets automatically, but hey, that’s cheating. Today, we’re going to find the planet Jupiter the old-fashioned way by using our eyes — with a little help from the moon.

Later today (Sunday, May 7), the waxing gibbous moon will be in conjunction with Jupiter, passing about 2° or four moon diameters north of the planet. The moon rises around 5 p.m. local daylight time and will be easily visible in the southeastern sky 20-25° high around 7:30 p.m. Since sunset occurs between 8 and 9 p.m. from many locations, we can use the moon to point us to Jupiter with the sun shining all the while.

This is the binocular view from Western Europe around 7:30 p.m. local time. The reason the moon appears in a different position relative to the planet is because it moves rather quickly along its orbit, traveling its own diameter every hour. Created with Stellarium

Face to the southeast around 7-7:30 p.m. and find the moon. Now point your arm skyward and look one thumb’s width (2°) to the right of the moon. If the sky is clear and blue (no high clouds or thick haze), you might just glimpse a tiny spark of light. Yes, that’s Jupiter! In broad daylight no less.

If you have difficulty, whip out your binoculars, focus them sharply on the moon and look a short distance to its right. You should be able to see the planet no problem now. Once you know exactly where to look, lower the glass and try again without optical aid. While Venus is not difficult to see in a blue sky, Jupiter’s a bigger challenge. Give yourself a big pat on the back if you find it.

Or you could wait till closer till your local sunset time, when the deepening blue of the eastern sky will make the planet stand out better. The diagram above shows the duo at 7:30 Central Daylight Time. From the East Coast they’ll be about ¼° closer together at the same local time and ¾° farther apart viewed from the West Coast.

You’ll have no difficulty finding Jupiter Sunday night when it’s only 2.5° to the right of the moon. Created with Stellarium

The fun continues. At nightfall, moon and planet will still be close together (about 2.5°), making for a eye-catching sight all night. If you haven’t taken a moonlit walk lately, tonight’s the night.

* Update: Just spotted Jupiter at 7:30 p.m. (almost an hour before sunset) in 8×40 binoculars with ease but not with the naked eye.

That had to wait until 8:08 p.m. 17 minutes before sunset. Without optical aid, Jupiter was a faint speck of light against the blue sky. Let us know if you spotted it by leaving a comment. Thanks!

4 Responses

  1. Hi Bob, apparently there is going to be a double shadow event on Jupiter on Thursday night at 10m ET. Ive always had a hard time viewing these, even though I have a big enough scope(8″ Meade LX200).

    Any hints on how to make these shadows stand out more in the eyepiece?


    1. astrobob

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the heads up! I see that for a short time around 10 p.m. EDT, both shadows will be visible simultaneously. Io’s shadow is fairly easy to see; Europa’s is tinier and harder. To see either best, I use the highest magnification the seeing conditions will allow – for me that’s usually around x200. Things to check that could also be causing you problems include a misaligned mirror or not letting the scope cool down to the air temperature before using it. But I’m guessing, you probably have done those things. I’ve never tried color filters to see if they might improve the view, but I know how glary Jupiter can be, so you might want to try a neutral density filter to tone down its brilliance. That might help.

  2. Richard Keen

    Bob, we had thunderstorms that afternoon and evening that made the daylight sighting quite impossible. But I remember back in July ’94 when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was crashing into Jupiter, Jupiter spent most of it’s time being a daytime (afternoon) object, and set shortly after sunset. So I got proficient at finding the planet in daylight, and thanks to our lovely Colorado skies (and a dry week in July without thunderstorms) was above to spot it several times with unaided eyes in mid-afternoon. Some years before that I spotted ol’ Jove with the naked eye from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, after the sun went behind the nearly overhead walls.
    I all cases finding it first with binoculars or a finder scope and then locating Jupiter relative to trees or canyon walls really helped.
    I also spotted Sirius and Mars in daylight back then, when my eyes were half their current age.
    More recently, in 2007, Comet McNaught was easy to find in daylight, but it was ten times brighter than Jupiter.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Richard,

      I’m sorry you had thunderstorms. It was difficult for me (with my old eyes) to see before sunset but quite a thrill when I did. I’ve never seen Mars or Sirius though at the next close opposition there will be some great opportunities for Mars. Like you I used binoculars first, then lined Jupiter up with a tree branch. I hope you’re doing well – thanks for writing!

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