Over the next few nights skywatchers everywhere should watch for the near full Moon paying a short visit with the king of all planets and then a celebrity star cluster. First up, on October 12 and October 13 Earth’s lone natural satellite will pair up with Jupiter. No need for any binoculars or telescopes for this cosmic treat as the two will be the brightest objects in the sky, visible soon after local sunset – rising in the east.
On Wednesday night the gas giant, more than 680 million km away will appear to the left of the Moon as a very bright star – only 7 degrees from each other – a separation equal to 14 full moon disks. A very impressive sight for any observer – even from bright, large cities.By the next evening the Moon will have jumped to the other side of Jupiter, positioning itself even closer to the planet at only 6 degrees away.
But wait, the Moon is not done guiding us to sky showpieces. As a bonus sky event, the Moon will continue its journey in the eastern sky on October 14 and 15, appearing to buzz the Pleiades star cluster – one of the most well known and beautiful stargazing targets. Also known as the Seven Sisters, this open star cluster looks to the naked eye as a faint hazy patch of light.
It is rich star cluster located about 400 light years distant and it can easily be seen from even light polluted suburban skies. With even the bright Moon in play this week, the Pleiades can be spotted fairly easily.
But if you want to experience its full beauty, try using binoculars or small telescope – they will bring out many more members of this cosmic nursery.
More than 40 members belong to this young group and most can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes. But even the naked eye will still pick out the brightest five to seven of its stars.
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.