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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


As seen from Africa and Europe, the waxing gibbous moon and the blazing planet Jupiter are the closest together for the month tonight, October 19th. From Asia, they'll be closest tomorrow night. But no matter where you live worldwide, look for Jupiter in the vicinity of tonight's moon.

With the exception of the moon, Jupiter is the brightest heavenly object in tonight's evening sky. Jupiter and the moon move westward on the sky's dome throughout most of the night tonight, and they will set beneath your western horizon in the wee hours before dawn.

As seen from Earth, the moon looks much larger than Jupiter. But that's because the moon is so much closer to us. This evening, the moon is about 1.35 light-seconds from Earth, while Jupiter is nearly 34 light-minutes away. Jupiter lies over 1,500 times farther off than the moon.

Jupiter's diameter is about 40 times greater than the moon's diameter. To gauge the size of our moon relative to Jupiter, look at Jupiter though binoculars or a backyard telescope sometime. Jupiter's four major moons - called the Galilean moons - are pretty easy to see. You might miss a moon or two on occasion, because these moons routinely swing in front and in back of Jupiter.

In their outward order from Jupiter, these moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Io and Europa are about the same size as our moon, whereas Ganymede and Callisto have diameters of about 1.5 times that of our moon. That bright "star" by the moon tonight is actually the dazzling planet Jupiter!

For more information, bookings for public observing evenings with large telescopes at the observatory, and repairs and servicing to all your optical equipment, contact Mike at SkyOptic, phone 331478 or email

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