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See the Moon and Jupiter get up close on May 7

Although now a few weeks past opposition, Jupiter still remains the dominant object in the night sky. Shining at around magnitude -2.4 and with a disk diameter of 43 arc seconds it is an unmissable beacon in the south. To add to the fun, on May 7 (a Sunday evening) it makes a very close approach to the Moon (or perhaps we should say the Moon makes a very close approach to Jupiter), creating an excellent imaging and observing opportunity. From the UK the event takes place around 22:00 UTC (23:00 BST) with the pair lying due south, 33 degrees above the horizon (from London) and Jupiter just over 1 degree south of the waxing gibbous Moon which will be 3 days from full.

A rich field telescope with a field of view around 2 degrees is ideal and will show the pair nicely or, failing that, a telescope finder scope or firmly mounted binoculars will do. Hand held 10x50 binoculars will easily show the Moon and Jupiter together and larger binoculars, if firmly mounted, will also bring the 4 Galilean satellites clearly into view. Calisto, Europa and Io will be found to the east of Jupiter (Calisto at 7.5 arc minutes – a quarter Moon diameter – the furthest away), with Ganymede lying 6 arc minutes to the west of Jupiter. The Moon and Jupiter will still be only 2 degrees apart when they set at around 03:00UTC. Let’s hope for clear skies!

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