Happy Earth Day, too! Earth’s still my favorite planet. The only one you where you can inhale deeply and smell a season. After watching the sky for years, you start thinking about our planet as more of a mobile observatory, cycling around the sun with ever-changing vistas of the stars, moon and planets.
Like the Giving Tree in the Shel Silverstein’s book of the same name, we ask much of the Earth, and it gives generously. Tomorrow morning for instance. The waning gibbous moon will team up with the bright planet Jupiter. You can watch them rise together around midnight when they’ll be a little more than 2° apart. For an even more amazing view, rise at dawn tomorrow when they’ll be only 1.3 moon-diameters apart. Steadily-held or tripod-mounted 10x binoculars will show up to four of Jupiter’s moons. Make sure you focus the planet as sharply as possible to accomplish this feat. Then swing by the moon for a look at its crinkly craters.
Because moon and planet approach so closely this makes an excellent opportunity to spot Jupiter after sunrise in the daytime sky. Just find the moon with your eyes, then focus it in a pair of binoculars. Look a little more than a moon diameter below the moon for a “star” in the blue — that will be the planet. Jupiter has a pale, translucent appearance. If you can spot it in binoculars, then try it without optical aid. Seeing planets in the daytime sky isn’t difficult if the moon is nearby. Although the blue sky looks like an impenetrable barrier, there are still stars and planets shining up there however weakly.