The Full Moon dominates the night sky this week, lighting the Autumn landscape and making its presence known as the soft grey glow of moonlight washes out all but the brightest stars in the sky. But even as the stars take a back seat in the night sky, the giant planet Jupiter shines steadily next to the Moon, undiminished by the intense glow of our nearest celestial neighbor.
Jupiter is nearing "opposition" in which it is at its closest approach to Earth for 2011. That means that it is also at its brightest, outshining all other celestial bodies in the night sky right now, except the Moon. For the next few nights as the Hunter's Moon passes near Jupiter, your attention will be drawn to the dazzling brightness of the largest planet in the Solar System. And once the Moon has moved into Last Quarter phase next week, Jupiter will remain steadfast in the evening sky, waiting for you to find it in binoculars or a small telescope. Take a moment and look up close if you have not seen Jupiter up-close. It's a worthy (and easy) target.
Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope Magazine.