NASA is urging stargazers to enjoy ‘nights with giants’ this month, as the massive planets Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the night sky for the next few weeks.
Early in the evening, you’ll find them to the southeast, moving slowly west with the stars over the course of the night.
“They form a triangle with the bright star Fomalhaut”explained the US space agency on its website.
‘As you look at this trio, notice how the planets shine with a constant light, while the star twinkles. This can be an easy way to find out if what you are seeing is a planet or a star.
At the end of last month, astronomers revealed that Jupiter would appear at its biggest and brightest in decades, as it made its closest approach to Earth in 59 years.
It’s still about 367 million miles away from us, but not since October 1963 had stargazers had such a great chance of spotting it in the night sky.
The gas giant came closest to Earth in almost 60 years on September 25, and 24 hours later it reached opposition, which means that the planet appeared in front of the sun with respect to those of the Earth.
The planet’s closest approach to Earth almost never coincides with opposition, which NASA says means this year’s views would be “extraordinary”.
The superposition of the two events, which won’t happen again until 2139, means Jupiter will appear brighter and larger in the sky for weeks to come.
When it comes to other heavenly sights this month, Mars has been moving steadily east throughout the year as it usually does, relative to background stars.
But at the end of October, the Red Planet stops this apparent motion and then appears to reverse course.
During the next three months, from November to the end of January, the planet moves west each night, then near the end of January it reverses direction again and continues its journey east.
This is what is called the retrograde motion of Mars., NASA said.