The Moon Will Have Rare Encounters With Jupiter & Saturn. Here's When to See Them.
August is shaping up to be a hell of a good month for lying in a field, looking up at the stars. Earlier this week, folks in the northern US had three straight nights of northern lights viewing. We're also just days from the peak of the Perseids, which, though it competes with a nearly-full moon, should make for wonderful viewing. (Not to mention the days leading up to the peak should offer good stargazing. So, look into all the Perseid meteor shower viewing parties near you.)
It's been a packed schedule already this month, but you can add a couple more items to the list. Both Jupiter and Saturn will have a close encounter with the nearly-full moon over the next few days and will continue to brilliantly shine in the southern sky throughout the month around twilight.
On the night of Friday, August 9, the largest planet in the solar system will come close to kissing the waxing gibbous moon. Of course, the two orbs will be more than 300 million miles apart, but Jupiter will appear right next to the moon in the sky. When you find the moon, look just down and to the right to find Jupiter glowing bright like a star.
Two days later on the night of Sunday, August 11, it's Saturn's turn to for a close approach. The ringed planet will appear near the bright moon in the southern sky just after dusk. Jupiter will still be visible and you might even be able to catch a few meteors from the Perseids or the less-active Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower, which peaked on July 29.
Both planets will look spectacular through a small telescope. Under the right conditions, you should be able to see the moons of Jupiter. Saturn's rings and some of its moons will also be visible, even though Earth's atmosphere could serve to blur the view with how low in the sky Saturn appears.
Best of all, unlike the northern lights or a meteor shower, you should be able to spot these events from just about anywhere. As long as the weather is cooperating and you don't have any obstructions along the horizon blocking your view, they'll be visible even amidst the light pollution of big cities.
If you enjoy lying outside on a warm summer night, there are a whole lot of reasons to take some time for stargazing this week.