Have you ever seen the planet Jupiter eclipsed? In a rare opportunity for sky-watchers the solar system’s giant planet will this week briefly be covered by the Moon—and it promises to be a spectacular sight for those in the US, Canada, Mexico and far northern Europe.
Even if you’re not in the path of eclipse (or occultation, as astronomers call it) a super-close conjunction between a crescent Moon and Jupiter will be visible—and in itself will be an arresting sight.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to see a total eclipse of Jupiter by the Moon:
When is Jupiter being eclipsed?
Before sunrise on Wednesday, June 17, 2023, Jupiter will be occulted—or eclipsed—by a crescent Moon, according to In-The-Sky.org.
Put your location into the website and you’ll get exact timings of when Jupiter will disappear and remerge.
Who will see Jupiter being eclipsed?
To see the entire event—Jupiter being covered by the Moon, then reappearing— you’ll need to be in the solid colored area on the map above—North America, Greenland, northern Scandinavia and the northern UK amongst others.
Dotted lines represent where only the disappearance or the reappearance will be visible.
In the eastern half of North America the occultation will occur in the eastern sky just before sunrise. Some locations will see it re-emerge some minutes later before sunrise takes place. A good place to get your exact timings and exactly where to look is Stellarium.
Where to look to see Jupiter being eclipsed
As you may have noticed, in recent months, Jupiter has been invisible to us in the post-sunset sky. So where is it now? Having disappeared into the Sun’s glare, from the evening sky, the giant planet has recently become visible in the predawn sky. Look towards the east before sunrise, and you will find Jupiter close to the horizon. It will be about 25° west of the Sun.
That’s precisely where the waning crescent moon hangs out prior to it becoming a New Moon, which it will do on May 19, a few days after the occultation by a crescent Moon.
Exactly what will happen during the Jupiter-Moon occultation
Given that it’s not a full, brightly-lit Moon occulting Jupiter the event deserves some explanation. What observers will see is a 6%-lit limb of the crescent Moon move across to block Jupiter.
That will be a beautiful thing to see using wither naked eyes, a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. It will also be technically possible to see Jupiter re-emerge from behind the dark limb of the Moon some time later, but it will be much harder because the Sun will be either close to sunrise or above the horizon.
Be so, so careful not to point any kind of optical instrument—be it binoculars or a telescope—anywhere near the Sun.
Why is Jupiter being eclipsed?
All the planets in the solar system, including us, orbit the Sun in the same plane. A bit like a fried egg, with a yolk representing the Sun and the white the area around it that the planets orbit through (though all at different distances, of course).
That plane is represented in our sky by the path of the Sun. On that same path, you’ll find the planets. It’s called the ecliptic. The Moon orbits on a slightly different orbit, but only slightly. In fact, the Moon’s orbital path around the Earth is tilted with respect to the ecliptic by only 5%.
Given that the planets orbit only roughly on the same plane, there is some overlap between the position of the planets and the Moon, which means that the latter can occult the former. It doesn’t happen too often, and when it does, it’s only visible to a very small area of the world—as with the case with this occultation of Jupiter by the Moon.
Jupiter won’t be eclipsed by the Moon again until September 8, 2026, which will also be visible to those in North America.
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