This time last year, even the most casual of skywatchers were privileged to a fabulous pairing of Jupiter and Venus in the west at nightfall. The second and third brightest luminaries in our night sky met up in March, then by late May both planets had slipped below the horizon. Summer skies hosted the two in the east before dawn, but while Venus is still hanging around those environs, Jupiter has been steadily ascending the sky earlier each night. If you went out tonight at 8 p.m. and looked up, you'd see it blazing high above, at the meridian, surrounded by the stars of constellation Taurus.
Venus, Jupiter, Aldebaran, and the crescent moon, near dawn, 15 July 2012, in a lovely capture by Luis Argenrich / Buenos Aries. (This conjunction had a little different look in the northern hemisphere.) Here Venus, the bright object to the upper right of the moon, is about 4 degrees from the moon; this coming Monday the moon and Jupiter will close to about a single degree... or about twice the width of the moon.
You may have noticed Jupiter over the past few months, especially when the moon makes its monthly pass through Taurus. For instance, the full moon of late November – the 'Long Night's Moon' – saw the two united for a brilliantly companionable stroll across the heavens, one they repeated on Christmas night.
This phenomenon will occur in the next few days as moon travels through Taurus once again. Look for the waxing moon on Sunday night as it enters Taurus, giving us a chance to note the very bright planet following closely in its wake. Then, Monday night, enjoy the spectacle of the moon and Jupiter in their closest encounter until 2026 -- less than 1 degree apart. So close, in fact, that for much of South America, the moon will 'occult,' or block, the view of this much larger planet.