Jupiter now lies highest in the UK sky at sunset, but the Solar System’s largest planet and its four bright Galilean moons still provide plenty of observable events during June, as we reveal. If you’re uncertain which evening ‘star’ is Jupiter, the Moon conveniently passes by on the night of 3—4 June, a time when European skywatchers can also see the Moon occult (hide) bright double star Porrima.
On the night of 4-5 March 2017, UK observers with clear skies can see an occultation bonanza as the 6-day-old waxing crescent Moon passes in front of prominent members of the Hyades open cluster in Taurus. Some hours later, after the Moon has set in the British Isles, first-magnitude star Aldebaran is occulted across a large swathe of North America.
On the night of 12-13 December, the waxing gibbous Moon glides in front of the loose open star cluster known as the Hyades in the constellation of Taurus, culminating in the occultation of bright star Aldebaran around 5:24am GMT for observers in the British Isles. In North America, the event occurs at a more sociable hour late into the evening of 12 December.
The penultimate 2016 occultation of Neptune by the Moon occurs on 9 November for observers in Western Asia, Eastern Europe and northernmost Africa. In Western Europe, the nine-day-old waxing gibbous Moon merely brushes by the outermost planet, but the pair will be close enough to be seen within the same field of view of a typical binocular from the UK.
Observers up for an extreme observing challenge may care to make an attempt at viewing the almost full Moon pass in front of planet Neptune soon after 8pm BST on Thursday, 15 September. The planet’s disappearance occurs at a low altitude in twilight for the British Isles, but can also be seen from a large swathe of Europe and western Russia.
If the excitement of the Juno spacecraft’s arrival at Jupiter has prompted you to seek out the solar system’s largest planet, then the 5-day-old cresent Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide during the evening of Saturday, 9 July when it makes a close pass of the gas giant. Here’s our guide to where and when to see this beautiful celestial pairing.
If you have a clear western horizon from shortly before 9pm BST until midnight on Sunday, 10 April, don’t miss an opportunity to see a young crescent Moon glide slowly through the southern edge of the Hyades star cluster in Taurus, covering (or occulting) stars as it goes. All you need is a typical binocular or a small telescope to enjoy the show!