See Jupiter In The Daytime? Try Weds. Morning!

You can easily see three planets about a hour or so before sunrise lined across the southern sky on late February and early March mornings. Jupiter and the moon make an eye-catching duo Wednesday. Stellarium

The morning sky planets have been shuffled and reshuffled over the past few months. Their order is now set from east to west: Venus, Saturn and Jupiter, and the threesome won’t cross paths again until the late fall when Venus returns to the evening sky. This Wednesday, Feb. 27 at dawn, the thick lunar crescent will pass only about 1.5° (three moon diameters) north of Jupiter. This pretty sight will be easy to see no matter where you live. Take a look out the window before you head to work or school.

Each panel shows the moon and Jupiter across 4 time zones around the time of local sunrise. The moon moves slowly from right to left (west to east) over the 4 hours because it’s orbiting the Earth. Stellarium

If you have a little extra time or if you get up late and miss sunrise, you have a great opportunity to see Jupiter in broad daylight. Because the planet is so close to the moon, it’s super easy to find. Just dig out your binoculars and point them at the moon, which stands almost due south at sunrise. Once you’ve got everything sharply focused, use the diagram (above) to find where Jupiter is in relation to the crescent. Notice that the moon’s position and separation varies a bit depending on what part of the country you live in due to its orbital motion.

In this photo taken Feb. 21, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot shows up clearly along with many cloud bands. The most obvious one is the milk-chocolate-brown North Equatorial Belt. Click the name link to see more of Chris’s fine work. Christopher Go

I’m sure you’ll see Jupiter shortly before and even shortly after sunrise with binoculars, but can you see it with the naked eye? Once you’ve spotted the planet and made a mental note of its position in relation to the moon, lower the binoculars and give it your best shot. I’d love to know if you were successful … or not! The challenge is to see how long can you keep Jupiter in view in binoculars? 8 a.m., 10 a.m.? Drop me a comment and I’ll post your observations later. Good luck!

9 Responses

    1. astrobob

      Hi Karrie,
      You can try with a mobile phone. It should be able to focus the moon just fine, but because you’ll have to zoom in, the image will be grainy-looking. Best is a decent camera with a telephoto lens — like around 150-200mm. I wish it were going to be clear here, as I’d try taking pictures both ways.

  1. Richard Keen

    Back in July ’94, when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was peppering Jupiter several times each day, Jupiter was highest up and best visible in the afternoon and evening, before sunset. So in the afternoon I’d set up the 12-inch and watch the action. After a couple of days I knew exactly where Jupiter would be in the sky, an after finding it with binoculars a few times, I was able to step outside, and, knowing where it was relative to the trees, find it within a minute with the unaided eye. That was in full daylight, maybe 5 pm or so.
    Now this was in Colorado at 9,000 feet election, with 27% less air and a sky that was proportionately less bright, but I suspect lots of people will have no problem seeing Jupiter. Especially after finding it the first time, the next time will be easy.

    1. astrobob

      Great eyes, sir but it shows how practice and familiarity can make even seemingly impossible sights easy. I caught Jupiter in binoculars at 8:15 this morning. Very easy!

      1. Richard Keen

        Great eyes indeed, 25 years ago. Jupiter and the moon were lovely with and without binoculars during the early dawn, but after sunrise some very thin wispy cirrus made the sky milky enough that there was no way of spotting Jupiter (once the sun began shining on those cirrus clouds).

  2. caralex

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t see it. Despite clear blue skies, when I looked at around 9 am, the sky was just too bright to find Jupiter, even with binoculars.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Carol,
      Yes, that’s getting a little late. I tried at 8:10 a.m. (an hour 20 mins. after sunrise) in 10×50 binoculars. At first I couldn’t see it but sure enough it popped out of the blue. You could even make out Jupiter’s shape. Pale though.

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