Despite being closest to Earth last month, the Solar System’s largest planet is still prominent at the close of March: Jupiter is big and bright in the constellation Cancer and currently highest in the sky to the south around 9:45 pm BST for the centre of the British Isles.
Jupiter is presently the third brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus (the latter dazzling low to the west), but if any help is required to identify the King of the Planets then the Moon is 8° away to its lower right on Sunday night, and a shade under 9° to the lower left of Jupiter on Monday evening (for scale, the span of your fist at arm’s length is about 10°).
For telescope users on Sunday night, Jupiter’s moon Io emerges from eclipse by its parent planet at 10:24 pm. The Great Red Spot will be on the centre of Jupiter’s disc at 11:53 pm on the 29th, but visible for an hour either side of that time. On Monday, moon Europa is occulted by Jupiter at 11:02 pm (all times BST).
While gazing at this conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter, try and comprehend the differing distance of these two worlds from us. On the night of March 29th, the Moon will be 247,100 miles (397,700 kilometres) distant, while Jupiter will be 439.3 million miles (707 million kilometres) from Earth — a staggering 1780 times further away! Clear skies!
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