Jupiter, ISS dominate the evening sky this week
Posted February 3, 2015
Jupiter will rise Tuesday night to the left of the full moon at sunset. The pair will reach their highest point in the southern sky shortly after midnight, and Jupiter will nearly complete an arc setting to the right of the moon at sunrise Wednesday morning. They may appear to be side by side, but Jupiter is 1620 times further away – and 40 times the size.
The moon rises about an hour later each day, but Jupiter’s rise time varies each day by only about 5 minutes. Look for Jupiter each evening this week and you will notice it appearing higher and higher above the moon.
On Friday, the Earth will pass between the sun and Jupiter. This “opposition of Jupiter” occurs every 13 months when the planet is opposite the sun in our sky. As it rises in the east, the sun will be setting in the west. Around 1 a.m., as it reaches the highest point in the sky, the sun will be directly under your feet.
Opposition also brings Jupiter to its closest (404 million miles or 650 million km) and brightest for the year. Jupiter will not appear larger or brighter until the opposition in June 2019.
While observing Jupiter rise this month, be sure to turn to the west to see Venus and Mars in the setting sun. Each evening, the pair will draw closer throughout the month until Feb. 21 when they will appear less than ¼ degree apart.
We can also see the ISS pass through our skies each night this week:
- Tuesday 7:21 p.m.: Rises in the southwest, reaches 54º above the horizon before dimming in the Earth’s shadow about 2.5 minutes later
- Wednesday 6:29 p.m.: Rises brightly in the southwest, reaches 30º above the horizon before nearly 5 minutes later
- Thursday 7:12 p.m.: Rises very brightly in the southwest, reaching 42º before diming in the North 4 minutes later
- Friday at 6:20 p.m.: Rises in the southwest, passes directly overhead before setting over the horizon about 6.5 minutes later.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.